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Title: Life of Chopin

Author: Franz Liszt

Release Date: August, 2003 [Etext# 4386]
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[This file was first posted on January 20, 2002]

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by Franz Liszt (Translated from the French by Martha Walker Cook)




The following is an e-text of "Life of Chopin," written by Franz
Liszt and translated from the french by Martha Walker Cook. The
original edition was published in 1863; a fourth, revised edition
(1880) was used in making this e-text. This e-text reproduces the
fourth edition essentially unabridged, with original spellings
intact, numerous typographical errors corrected, and words
italicized in the original text capitalized in this e-text. In
making this e-text, each page was cut out of the original book
with an x-acto knife to feed the pages into an Automatic Document
Feeder scanner for scanning. Hence, the book was disbinded in
order to save it. Thanks to Charles Franks and the Online
Distributed Proofreading team for help in proofreading this e-


"Without your consent or knowledge, I have ventured to dedicate
this translation to you!

As the countryman of Chopin, and filled with the same earnest
patriotism which distinguished him; as an impassioned and perfect
Pianist, capable, of reproducing his difficult compositions in
all the subtle tenderness, fire, energy, melancholy, despair,
caprice, hope, delicacy and startling vigor which they
imperiously exact; as thorough master of the complicated
instrument to which he devoted his best powers; as an erudite and
experienced possessor of that abstruse and difficult science,
music; as a composer of true, deep, and highly original genius,--
this dedication is justly made to you!

Even though I may have wounded your characteristically haughty,
shrinking, and Sclavic susceptibilities in rendering so public a
tribute to your artistic skill, forgive me! The high moral worth
and manly rectitude which distinguish you, and which alone render
even the most sublime genius truly illustrious in the eyes of
woman, almost force these inadequate and imperfect words from the
heart of the translator.



To a people, always prompt in its recognition of genius, and
ready to sympathize in the joys and woes of a truly great artist,
this work will be one of exceeding interest. It is a short,
glowing, and generous sketch, from the hand of Franz Liszt, (who,
considered in the double light of composer and performer, has no
living equal,) of the original and romantic Chopin; the most
ethereal, subtle, and delicate among our modern tone-poets. It is
a rare thing for a great artist to write on art, to leave the
passionate worlds of sounds or colors for the colder realm of
words; rarer still for him to abdicate, even temporarily, his own
throne, to stand patiently and hold aloft the blazing torch of
his own genius, to illume the gloomy grave of another: yet this
has Liszt done through love for Chopin.

It is a matter of considerable interest to note how the nervous
and agile fingers, accustomed to sovereign rule over the keys,
handle the pen; how the musician feels as a man; how he estimates
art and artists. Liszt is a man of extensive culture, vivid
imagination, and great knowledge of the world; and, in addition
to their high artistic value, his lines glow with poetic fervor,
with impassioned eloquence. His musical criticisms are refined
and acute, but without repulsive technicalities or scientific
terms, ever sparkling with the poetic ardor of the generous soul
through which the discriminating, yet appreciative awards were
poured. Ah! in these days of degenerate rivalries and bitter
jealousies, let us welcome a proof of affection so tender as his
"Life of Chopin"!

It would be impossible for the reader of this book to remain
ignorant of the exactions of art. While, through its eloquence
and subtle analysis of character, it appeals to the cultivated
literary tastes of our people, it opens for them a dazzling
perspective into that strange world of tones, of whose magical
realm they know, comparatively speaking, so little. It is
intelligible to all who think or feel; requiring no knowledge of
music for its comprehension.

The compositions of Chopin are now the mode, the rage. Every one
asks for them, every one tries to play them. We have, however,
but few remarks upon the peculiarities of his style, or the
proper manner of producing his works. His compositions, generally
perfect in form, are never abstract conceptions, but had their
birth in his soul, sprang from the events of his life, and are
full of individual and national idiosyncrasies, of psychological
interest. Liszt knew Chopin both as man and artist; Chopin loved
to hear him interpret his music, and himself taught the great
Pianist the mysteries of his undulating rhythm and original
motifs. The broad and noble criticisms contained in this book are
absolutely essential for the musical culture of the thousands now
laboriously but vainly struggling to perform his elaborate works,
and who, having no key to their multiplied complexities of
expression, frequently fail in rendering them aright.

And the masses in this country, full of vivid perception and
intelligent curiosity, who, not playing themselves, would yet
fain follow with the heart compositions which they are told are
of so much artistic value, will here find a key to guide them
through the tuneful labyrinth. Some of Chopin's best works are
analyzed herein. He wrote for the HEART OF HIS PEOPLE; their
joys, sorrows, and caprices are immortalized by the power of his
art. He was a strictly national tone-poet, and to understand him
fully, something must be known of the brave and haughty, but
unhappy country which he so loved. Liszt felt this, and has been
exceedingly happy in the short sketch given of Poland. We
actually know more of its picturesque and characteristic customs
after a perusal of his graphic pages, than after a long course of
dry historical details. His remarks on the Polonaise and Mazourka
are full of the philosophy and essence of history. These dances
grew directly from the heart of the Polish people; repeating the
martial valor and haughty love of noble exhibition of their men;
the tenderness, devotion, and subtle coquetry of their women--
they were of course favorite forms with Chopin; their national
character made them dear to the national poet. The remarks of
Liszt on these dances are given with a knowledge so acute of the
traits of the nation in which they originated, with such a
gorgeousness of description and correctness of detail, that they
rather resemble a highly finished picture, than a colder work of
words only. They have all the splendor of a brilliant painting.
He seizes the secrets of the nationality of these forms, traces
them through the heart of the Polish people, follows them through
their marvelous transfiguration in the pages of the Polish
artist, and reads by their light much of the sensitive and
exclusive character of Chopin, analyzing it with the skill of
love, while depicting it with romantic eloquence.

To those who can produce the compositions of Chopin in the spirit
of their author, no words are necessary. They follow with the
heart the poetic and palpitating emotions so exquisitely wrought
through the aerial tissue of the tones by this "subtle-souled
Psychologist," this bold and original explorer in the invisible
world of sound;--all honor to their genius:

     "Oh, happy! and of many millions, they
     The purest chosen, whom Art's service pure
     Hallows and claims--whose hearts are made her throne,
     Whose lips her oracle, ordained secure,
     To lead a priestly life, and feed the ray
     Of her eternal shrine, to them alone
     Her glorious countenance unveiled is shown:
     Ye, the high brotherhood she links, rejoice
     In the great rank allotted by her choice!
     The loftiest rank the spiritual world sublime,
     Rich with its starry thrones, gives to the sons of Time!"


Short but glowing sketches of Heine, Meyerbeer, Adolphe Nourrit,
Hiller, Eugene Delacroix, Niemcevicz, Mickiewicz, and Madame
Sand, occur in the book. The description of the last days of poor
Chopin's melancholy life, with the untiring devotion of those
around him, including the beautiful countess, Delphine Potocka;
his cherished sister, Louise; his devoted friend and pupil, M.
Gutman, with the great Liszt himself, is full of tragic interest.

No pains have been spared by the translator to make the
translation acceptable, for the task was truly a labor of love.
No motives of interest induced the lingering over the careful
rendering of the charmed pages, but an intense desire that our
people should know more of musical art; that while acknowledging
the generosity and eloquence of Liszt, they should learn to
appreciate and love the more subtle fire, the more creative
genius of the unfortunate, but honorable and honored artist,

Perchance Liszt may yet visit us; we may yet hear the matchless
Pianist call from their graves in the white keys, the delicate
arabesques, the undulating and varied melodies, of Chopin. We
should be prepared to appreciate the great Artist in his
enthusiastic rendering of the master-pieces of the man he loved;
prepared to greet him when he electrifies us with his wonderful
Cyclopean harmonies, written for his own Herculean grasp,
sparkling with his own Promethean fire, which no meaner hand can
ever hope to master! "Hear Liszt and die," has been said by some
of his enthusiastic admirers--understand him and live, were the
wiser advice!

In gratitude then to Chopin for the multiplied sources of high
and pure pleasure which he has revealed to humanity in his
creations, that human woe and sorrow become pure beauty when his
magic spell is on them, the translator calls upon all lovers of
the beautiful "to contribute a stone to the pyramid now rapidly
erecting in honor of the great modern composer"--ay, the living
stone of appreciation, crystalized in the enlightened gratitude
of the heart.

          "So works this music upon earth
          God so admits it, sends it forth.
          To add another worth to worth--

          A new creation-bloom that rounds
          The old creation, and expounds
          His Beautiful in tuneful sounds."


Chopin--Style and Improvements--The Adagio of the Second
Concerto--Funeral March--Psychological Character of the
Compositions of Chopin, &c., &c.

Deeply regretted as he may be by the whole body of artists,
lamented by all who have ever known him, we must still be
permitted to doubt if the time has even yet arrived in which he,
whose loss is so peculiarly deplored by ourselves, can be
appreciated in accordance with his just value, or occupy that
high rank which in all probability will be assigned him in the

If it has been often proved that "no one is a prophet in his own
country;" is it not equally true that the prophets, the men of
the future, who feel its life in advance, and prefigure it in
their works, are never recognized as prophets in their own times?
It would be presumptuous to assert that it can ever be otherwise.
In vain may the young generations of artists protest against the
"Anti-progressives," whose invariable custom it is to assault and
beat down the living with the dead: time alone can test the real
value, or reveal the hidden beauties, either of musical
compositions, or of kindred efforts in the sister arts.

As the manifold forms of art are but different incantations,
charged with electricity from the soul of the artist, and
destined to evoke the latent emotions and passions in order to
render them sensible, intelligible, and, in some degree,
tangible; so genius may be manifested in the invention of new
forms, adapted, it may be, to the expression of feelings which
have not yet surged within the limits of common experience, and
are indeed first evoked within the magic circle by the creative
power of artistic intuition. In arts in which sensation is linked
to emotion, without the intermediate assistance of thought and
reflection, the mere introduction of unaccustomed forms, of
unused modes, must present an obstacle to the immediate
comprehension of any very original composition. The surprise,
nay, the fatigue, caused by the novelty of the singular
impressions which it awakens, will make it appear to many as if
written in a language of which they were ignorant, and which that
reason will in itself be sufficient to induce them to pronounce a
barbarous dialect. The trouble of accustoming the ear to it will
repel many who will, in consequence, refuse to make a study of
it. Through the more vivid and youthful organizations, less
enthralled by the chains of habit; through the more ardent
spirits, won first by curiosity, then filled with passion for the
new idiom, must it penetrate and win the resisting and opposing
public, which will finally catch the meaning, the aim, the
construction, and at last render justice to its qualities, and
acknowledge whatever beauty it may contain. Musicians who do  not
restrict themselves within the limits of conventional routine,
have, consequently, more need than other artists of the aid of
time. They cannot hope that death will bring that instantaneous
plus-value to their works which it gives to those of the
painters. No musician could renew, to the profit of his
manuscripts, the deception practiced by one of the great Flemish
painters, who, wishing in his lifetime to benefit by his future
glory, directed his wife to spread abroad the news of his death,
in order that the pictures with which he had taken care to cover
the walls of his studio, might suddenly increase in value!

Whatever may be the present popularity of any part of the
productions of one, broken, by suffering long before taken by
death, it is nevertheless to be presumed that posterity will
award to his works an estimation of a far higher character, of a
much more earnest nature, than has hitherto been awarded them. A
high rank must be assigned by the future historians of music to
one who distinguished himself in art by a genius for melody so
rare, by such graceful and remarkable enlargements of the
harmonic tissue; and his triumph will be justly preferred to many
of far more extended surface, though the works of such victors
may be played and replayed by the greatest number of instruments,
and be sung and resung by passing crowds of Prime Donne.

In confining himself exclusively to the Piano, Chopin has, in our
opinion, given proof of one of the most essential qualities of a
composer--a just appreciation of the form in which he possessed
the power to excel; yet this very fact, to which we attach so
much importance, has been injurious to the extent of his fame. It
would have been most difficult for any other writer, gifted with
such high harmonic and melodic powers, to have resisted the
temptation of the SINGING of the bow, the liquid sweetness of the
flute, or the deafening swells of the trumpet, which we still
persist in believing the only fore-runner of the antique goddess
from whom we woo the sudden favors. What strong conviction, based
upon reflection, must have been requisite to have induced him to
restrict himself to a circle apparently so much more barren; what
warmth of creative genius must have been necessary to have forced
from its apparent aridity a fresh growth of luxuriant bloom,
unhoped for in such a soil! What intuitive penetration is
repealed by this exclusive choice, which, wresting the different
effects of the various instruments from their habitual domain,
where the whole foam of sound would have broken at their feet,
transported them into a sphere, more limited, indeed, but far
more idealized! What confident perception of the future powers of
his instrument must have presided over his voluntary renunciation
of an empiricism, so widely spread, that another would have
thought it a mistake, a folly, to have wrested such great
thoughts from their ordinary interpreters! How sincerely should
we revere him for this devotion to the Beautiful for its own
sake, which induced him not to yield to the general propensity to
scatter each light spray of melody over a hundred orchestral
desks, and enabled him to augment the resources of art, in
teaching how they may be concentrated in a more limited space,
elaborated at less expense of means, and condensed in time!

Far from being ambitious of the uproar of an orchestra, Chopin
was satisfied to see his thought integrally produced upon the
ivory of the key-board; succeeding in his aim of losing nothing
in power, without pretending to orchestral effects, or to the
brush of the scene-painter. Oh! we have not yet studied with
sufficient earnestness and attention the designs of his delicate
pencil, habituated as we are, in these days, to consider only
those composers worthy of a great name, who have written at least
half-a-dozen Operas, as many Oratorios, and various Symphonies:
vainly requiring every musician to do every thing, nay, a little
more than every thing. However widely diffused this idea may be,
its justice is, to say the least, highly problematical. We are
far from contesting the glory more difficult of attainment, or
the real superiority of the Epic poets, who display their
splendid creations upon so large a plan; but we desire that
material proportion in music should be estimated by the same
measure which is applied to dimension in other branches of the
fine arts; as, for example, in painting, where a canvas of twenty
inches square, as the Vision of Ezekiel, or Le Cimetiere by
Ruysdael, is placed among the chefs d'oeuvre, and is more highly
valued than pictures of a far larger size, even though they might
be from the hands of a Rubens or a Tintoret. In literature, is
Beranger less a great poet, because he has condensed his thoughts
within the narrow limits of his songs? Does not Petrarch owe his
fame to his Sonnets? and among those who most frequently repeat
their soothing rhymes, how many know any thing of the existence
of his long poem on Africa? We cannot doubt that the prejudice
which would deny the superiority of an artist--though he should
have produced nothing but such Sonatas as Franz Schubert has
given us--over one who has portioned out the insipid melodies of
many Operas, which it were useless to cite, will disappear; and
that in music, also, we will yet take into account the eloquence
and ability with which the thoughts and feelings are expressed,
whatever may be the size of the composition in which they are
developed, or the means employed to interpret them.

In making an analysis of the works of Chopin, we meet with
beauties of a high order, expressions entirely new, and a
harmonic tissue as original as erudite. In his compositions,
boldness is always justified; richness, even exuberance, never
interferes with clearness; singularity never degenerates into
uncouth fantasticalness; the sculpturing is never disorderly; the
luxury of ornament never overloads the chaste eloquence of the
principal lines. His best works abound in combinations which may
be said to form an epoch in the handling of musical style.
Daring, brilliant and attractive, they disguise their profundity
under so much grace, their science under so many charms, that it
is with difficulty we free ourselves sufficiently from their
magical enthrallment, to judge coldly of their theoretical value.
Their worth has, however, already been felt; but it will be more
highly estimated when the time arrives for a critical examination
of the services rendered by them to art during that period of its
course traversed by Chopin.

It is to him we owe the extension of chords, struck together in
arpeggio, or en batterie; the chromatic sinuosities of which his
pages offer such striking examples; the little groups of
superadded notes, falling like light drops of pearly dew upon the
melodic figure. This species of adornment had hitherto been
modeled only upon the Fioritures of the great Old School of
Italian song; the embellishments for the voice had been servilely
copied by the Piano, although become stereotyped and monotonous:
he imparted to them the charm of novelty, surprise and variety,
unsuited for the vocalist, but in perfect keeping with the
character of the instrument. He invented the admirable harmonic
progressions which have given a serious character to pages,
which, in consequence of the lightness of their subject, made no
pretension to any importance. But of what consequence is the
subject? Is it not the idea which is developed through it, the
emotion with which it vibrates, which expands, elevates and
ennobles it? What tender melancholy, what subtlety, what sagacity
in the master-pieces of La Fontaine, although the subjects are so
familiar, the titles so modest? Equally unassuming are the titles
and subjects of the Studies and Preludes; yet the compositions of
Chopin, so modestly named, are not the less types of perfection
in a mode created by himself, and stamped, like all his other
works, with the high impress of his poetic genius. Written in the
commencement of his career, they are characterized by a youthful
vigor not to be found in some of his subsequent works, even when
more elaborate, finished, and richer in combinations; a vigor,
which is entirely lost in his latest productions, marked by an
over-excited sensibility, a morbid irritability, and giving
painful intimations of his own state of suffering and exhaustion.

If it were our intention to discuss the development of Piano
music in the language of the Schools, we would dissect his
magnificent pages, which afford so rich a field for scientific
observation. We would, in the first place, analyze his Nocturnes,
Ballades, Impromptus, Scherzos, which are full of refinements of
harmony never heard before; bold, and of startling originality.
We would also examine his Polonaises, Mazourkas, Waltzes and
Boleros. But this is not the time or place for such a study,
which would be interesting only to the adepts in Counterpoint and

It is the feeling which overflows in all his works, which has
rendered them known and popular; feeling of a character eminently
romantic, subjective individual, peculiar to their author, yet
awakening immediate sympathy; appealing not alone to the heart of
that country indebted to him for yet one glory more, but to all
who can be touched by the misfortunes of exile, or moved by the
tenderness of love. Not content with success in the field in
which he was free to design, with such perfect grace, the
contours chosen by himself, Chopin also wished to fetter his
ideal thoughts with classic chains. His Concertos and Sonatas are
beautiful indeed, but we may discern in them more effort than
inspiration. His creative genius was imperious, fantastic and
impulsive. His beauties were only manifested fully in entire
freedom. We believe he offered violence to the character of his
genius whenever he sought to subject it to rules, to
classifications, to regulations not his own, and which he could
not force into harmony with the exactions of his own mind. He was
one of those original beings, whose graces are only fully
displayed when they have cut themselves adrift from all bondage,
and float on at their own wild will, swayed only by the ever
undulating impulses of their own mobile natures.

He was, perhaps, induced to desire this double success through
the example of his friend, Mickiewicz, who, having been the first
to gift his country with romantic poetry, forming a school in
Sclavic literature by the publication of his Dziady, and his
romantic Ballads, as early as 1818, proved afterwards, by the
publication at his Grazyna and Wallenrod, that he could triumph
over the difficulties that classic restrictions oppose to
inspiration, and that, when holding the classic lyre of the
ancient poets, he was still master. In making analogous attempts,
we do not think Chopin has been equally successful. He could not
retain, within the square of an angular and rigid mould, that
floating and indeterminate contour which so fascinates us in his
graceful conceptions. He could not introduce in its unyielding
lines that shadowy and sketchy indecision, which, disguising the
skeleton, the whole frame-work of form, drapes it in the mist of
floating vapors, such as surround the white-bosomed maids of
Ossian, when they permit mortals to catch some vague, yet lovely
outline, from their home in the changing, drifting, blinding

Some of these efforts, however, are resplendent with a rare
dignity of style; and passages of exceeding interest, of
surprising grandeur, may be found among them. As an example of
this, we cite the Adagio of the Second Concerto, for which he
evinced a decided preference, and which he liked to repeat
frequently. The accessory designs are in his best manner, while
the principal phrase is of an admirable breadth. It alternates
with a Recitative, which assumes a minor key, and which seems to
be its Antistrophe. The whole of this piece is of a perfection
almost ideal; its expression, now radiant with light, now full of
tender pathos. It seems as if one had chosen a happy vale of
Tempe, a magnificent landscape flooded with summer glow and
lustre, as a background for the rehearsal of some dire scene of
mortal anguish. A bitter and irreparable regret seizes the
wildly-throbbing human heart, even in the midst of the
incomparable splendor of external nature. This contrast is
sustained by a fusion of tones, a softening of gloomy hues, which
prevent the intrusion of aught rude or brusque that might awaken
a dissonance in the touching impression produced, which, while
saddening joy, soothes and softens the bitterness of sorrow.

It would be impossible to pass in silence the Funeral March
inserted in the first Sonata, which was arranged for the
orchestra, and performed, for the first time, at his own
obsequies. What other accents could have been found capable of
expressing, with the same heart-breaking effect, the emotions,
the tears, which should accompany to the last long sleep, one who
had taught in a manner so sublime, how great losses should be
mourned? We once heard it remarked by a native of his own
country: "these pages could only have been written by a Pole."
All that the funeral train of an entire nation weeping its own
ruin and death can be imagined to feel of desolating woe, of
majestic sorrow, wails in the musical ringing of this passing
bell, mourns in the tolling of this solemn knell, as it
accompanies the mighty escort on its way to the still city of the
Dead. The intensity of mystic hope; the devout appeal to
superhuman pity, to infinite mercy, to a dread justice, which
numbers every cradle and watches every tomb; the exalted
resignation which has wreathed so much grief with halos so
luminous; the noble endurance of so many disasters with the
inspired heroism of Christian martyrs who know not to despair;--
resound in this melancholy chant, whose voice of supplication
breaks the heart. All of most pure, of most holy, of most
believing, of most hopeful in the hearts of children, women, and
priests, resounds, quivers and trembles there with irresistible
vibrations. We feel it is not the death of a single warrior we
mourn, while other heroes live to avenge him, but that a whole
generation of warriors has forever fallen, leaving the death song
to be chanted but by wailing women, weeping children and helpless
priests. Yet this Melopee so funereal, so full of desolating woe,
is of such penetrating sweetness, that we can scarcely deem it of
this earth. These sounds, in which the wild passion of human
anguish seems chilled by awe and softened by distance, impose a
profound meditation, as if, chanted by angels, they floated
already in the heavens: the cry of a nation's anguish mounting to
the very throne of God! The appeal of human grief from the lyre
of seraphs! Neither cries, nor hoarse groans, nor impious
blasphemies, nor furious imprecations, trouble for a moment the
sublime sorrow of the plaint: it breathes upon the ear like the
rhythmed sighs of angels. The antique face of grief is entirely
excluded. Nothing recalls the fury of Cassandra, the prostration
of Priam, the frenzy of Hecuba, the despair of the Trojan
captives. A sublime faith destroying in the survivors of this
Christian Ilion the bitterness of anguish and the cowardice of
despair, their sorrow is no longer marked by earthly weakness.
Raising itself from the soil wet with blood and tears, it springs
forward to implore God; and, having nothing more to hope from
earth, it supplicates the Supreme Judge with prayers so poignant,
that our hearts, in listening, break under the weight of an
august compassion! It would be a mistake to suppose that all the
compositions of Chopin are deprived of the feelings which he has
deemed best to suppress in this great work. Not so. Perhaps human
nature is not capable of maintaining always this mood of
energetic abnegation, of courageous submission. We meet with
breathings of stifled rage, of suppressed anger, in many passages
of his writings: and many of his Studies, as well as his
Scherzos, depict a concentrated exasperation and despair, which
are sometimes manifested in bitter irony, sometimes in intolerant
hauteur. These dark apostrophes of his muse have attracted less
attention, have been less fully understood, than his poems of
more tender coloring. The personal character of Chopin had
something to do with this general misconception. Kind, courteous,
and affable, of tranquil and almost joyous manners, he would not
suffer the secret convulsions which agitated him to be even

His character was indeed not easily understood. A thousand subtle
shades, mingling, crossing, contradicting and disguising each
other, rendered it almost undecipherable at a first view. As is
usually the case with the Sclaves, it was difficult to read the
recesses of his mind. With them, loyalty and candor, familiarity
and the most captivating ease of manner, by no means imply
confidence, or impulsive frankness. Like the twisted folds of a
serpent rolled upon itself, their feelings are half hidden, half
revealed. It requires a most attentive examination to follow the
coiled linking of the glittering rings. It would be naive to
interpret literally their courtesy full of compliment, their
assumed humility. The forms of this politeness, this modesty,
have their solution in their manners, in which their ancient
connection with the East may be strangely traced. Without having
in the least degree acquired the taciturnity of the Mussulman,
they have yet learned from it a distrustful reserve upon all
subjects which touch upon the more delicate and personal chords
of the heart. When they speak of themselves, we may almost always
be certain that they keep some concealment in reserve, which
assures them the advantage in intellect, or feeling. They suffer
their interrogator to remain in ignorance of some circumstance,
some mobile secret, through the unveiling of which they would be
more admired, or less esteemed, and which they well know how to
hide under the subtle smile of an almost imperceptible mockery.
Delighting in the pleasure of mystification, from the most
spiritual or comic to the most bitter and melancholy, they may
perhaps find in this deceptive raillery an external formula of
disdain for the veiled expression of the superiority which they
internally claim, but which claim they veil with the caution and
astuteness natural to the oppressed.

The frail and sickly organization of Chopin, not permitting him
the energetic expression of his passions, he gave to his friends
only the gentle and affectionate phase of his nature. In the
busy, eager life of large cities, where no one has time to study
the destiny of another, where every one is judged by his external
activity, very few think it worth while to attempt to penetrate
the enigma of individual character. Those who enjoyed familiar
intercourse with Chopin, could not be blind to the impatience and
ennui he experienced in being, upon the calm character of his
manners, so promptly believed. And may not the artist revenge the
man? As his health was too frail to permit him to give vent to
his impatience through the vehemence of his execution, he sought
to compensate himself by pouring this bitterness over those pages
which he loved to hear performed with a vigor [Footnote: It was
his delight to hear them executed by the great Liszt himself.--
Translator.] which he could not himself always command: pages
which are indeed full of the impassioned feelings of a man
suffering deeply from wounds which he does not choose to avow.
Thus around a gaily flagged, yet sinking ship, float the fallen
spars and scattered fragments, torn by warring winds and surging
waves from its shattered sides.

Such emotions have been of so much the more importance in the
life of Chopin, because they have deeply influenced the character
of his compositions. Among the pages published under such
influences, may be traced much analogous to the wire-drawn
subtleties of Jean Paul, who found it necessary, in order to move
hearts macerated by passion, blazes through suffering, to make
use of the surprises caused by natural and physical phenomena; to
evoke the sensations of luxurious terrors arising from
occurrences not to be foreseen in the natural order of things; to
awaken the morbid excitements of a dreamy brain. Step by step the
tortured mind of Chopin arrived at a state of sickly
irritability; his emotions increased to a feverish tremor,
producing that involution, that tortuosity of thought, which mark
his latest works. Almost suffocating under the oppression of
repressed feelings, using art only to repeat and rehearse for
himself his own internal tragedy, after having wearied emotion,
he began to subtilize it. His melodies are actually tormented; a
nervous and restless sensibility leads to an obstinate
persistence in the handling and rehandling and a reiterated
pursuit of the tortured motifs, which impress us as painfully as
the sight of those physical or mental agonies which we know can
find relief only in death. Chopin was a victim to a disease
without hope, which growing more envenomed from year to year,
took him, while yet young, from those who loved him, and laid him
in his still grave. As in the fair form of some beautiful victim,
the marks of the grasping claws of the fierce bird of prey which
has destroyed it, may be found; so, in the productions of which
we have just spoken, the traces of the bitter sufferings which
devoured his heart, are painfully visible.


National Character of the Polonaise--Oginski--Meyseder--Weber--
Chopin--His Polonaise in F Sharp, Minor--Polonaise--Fantaisie.

It must not be supposed that the tortured aberrations of feeling
to which we have just alluded, ever injure the harmonic tissue in
the works of Chopin on the contrary, they only render it a more
curious subject for analysis. Such eccentricities rarely occur in
his more generally known and admired compositions. His
Polonaises, which are less studied than they merit, on account of
the difficulties presented by their perfect execution, are to be
classed among his highest inspirations. They never remind us of
the mincing and affected "Polonaises a la Pompadour," which our
orchestras have introduced into ball-rooms, our virtuosi in
concerts, or of those to be found in our "Parlor Repertories,"
filled, as they invariably are, with hackneyed collections of
music, marked by insipidity and mannerism.

His Polonaises, characterized by an energetic rhythm, galvanize
and electrify the torpor of indifference. The most noble
traditional feelings of ancient Poland are embodied in them. The
firm resolve and calm gravity of its men of other days, breathe
through these compositions. Generally of a martial character,
courage and daring are rendered with that simplicity of
expression, said to be a distinctive trait of this warlike
people. They bring vividly before the imagination, the ancient
Poles, as we find them described in their chronicles; gifted with
powerful organizations, subtle intellects, indomitable courage
and earnest piety, mingled with high-born courtesy and a
gallantry which never deserted them, whether on the eve of
battle, during its exciting course, in the triumph of victory, or
amidst the gloom of defeat. So inherent was this gallantry and
chivalric courtesy in their nature, that in spite of the
restraint which their customs (resembling those of their
neighbours and enemies, the infidels of Stamboul) induced them to
exercise upon their women, confining them in the limits of
domestic life and always holding them under legal wardship, they
still manifest themselves in their annals, in which they have
glorified and immortalized queens who were saints; vassals who
became queens, beautiful subjects for whose sake some periled,
while others lost, crowns: a terrible Sforza; an intriguing
d'Arquien; and a coquettish Gonzaga.

The Poles of olden times united a manly firmness with this
peculiar chivalric devotion to the objects of their love. A
characteristic example of this may be seen in the letters of Jean
Sobieski to his wife. They were dictated in face of the standards
of the Crescent, "numerous as the ears in a grain-field," tender
and devoted as is their character. Such traits caught a singular
and imposing hue from the grave deportment of these men, so
dignified that they might almost be accused of pomposity. It was
next to impossible that they should not contract a taste for this
stateliness, when we consider that they had almost always before
them the most exquisite type of gravity of manner in the
followers of Islam, whose qualities they appreciated and
appropriated, even while engaged in repelling their invasions.
Like the infidel, they knew how to preface their acts by an
intelligent deliberation, so that the device of Prince Boleslas
of Pomerania, was always present to them: "First weigh it; then
dare:" Erst wieg's: dann wag's! Such deliberation imparted a kind
of stately pride to their movements, while it left them in
possession of an ease and freedom of spirit accessible to the
lightest cares of tenderness, to the most trivial interests of
the passing hour, to the most transient feelings of the heart. As
it made part of their code of honor to make those who interfered
with them, in their more tender interests, pay dearly for it; so
they knew how to beautify life, and, better still, they knew how
to love those who embellished it; to revere those who rendered it
precious to them.

Their chivalric heroism was sanctioned by their grave and haughty
dignity; an intelligent and premeditated conviction added the
force of reason to the energy of impulsive virtue; thus they have
succeeded in winning the admiration of all ages, of all minds,
even that of their most determined adversaries. They were
characterized by qualities rarely found together, the description
of which would appear almost paradoxical: reckless wisdom, daring
prudence, and fanatic fatalism. The most marked and celebrated
historic manifestation of these properties is to be found in the
expedition of Sobieski when he saved Vienna, and gave a mortal
blow to the Ottoman Empire, which was at last conquered in the
long struggle, sustained on both sides with so much prowess and
glory, with so much mutual deference between opponents as
magnanimous in their truces as irreconcilable in their combats.

While listening to some of the POLONAISES of Chopin, we can
almost catch the firm, nay, the more than firm, the heavy,
resolute tread of men bravely facing all the bitter injustice
which the most cruel and relentless destiny can offer, with the
manly pride of unblenching courage. The progress of the music
suggests to our imagination such magnificent groups as were
designed by Paul Veronese, robed in the rich costume of days long
past: we see passing at intervals before us, brocades of gold,
velvets, damasked satins, silvery soft and flexile sables,
hanging sleeves gracefully thrown back upon the shoulders,
embossed sabres, boots yellow as gold or red with trampled blood,
sashes with long and undulating fringes, close chemisettes,
rustling trains, stomachers embroidered with pearls, head dresses
glittering with rubies or leafy with emeralds, light slippers
rich with amber, gloves perfumed with the luxurious attar from
the harems. Prom the faded background of times long passed these
vivid groups start forth; gorgeous carpets from Persia lie at
their feet, filigreed furniture from Constantinople stands
around; all is marked by the sumptuous prodigality of the
Magnates who drew, in ruby goblets embossed with medallions, wine
from the fountains of Tokay, and shoed their fleet Arabian steeds
with silver, who surmounted all their escutcheons with the same
crown which the fate of an election might render a royal one, and
which, causing them to despise all other titles, was alone worn
as INSIGNE of their glorious equality.

Those who have seen the Polonaise danced even as late as the
beginning of the present century, declare that its style has
changed so much, that it is now almost impossible to divine its
primitive character. As very few national dances have succeeded
in preserving their racy originality, we may imagine, when we
take into consideration the changes which have occurred, to what
a degree this has degenerated. The Polonaise is without rapid
movements, without any true steps in the artistic sense of the
word, intended rather for display than for the exhibition of
seductive grace; so we may readily conceive it must lose all its
haughty importance, its pompous self-sufficiency, when the
dancers are deprived of the accessories necessary to enable them
to animate its simple form by dignified, yet vivid gestures, by
appropriate and expressive pantomime, and when the costume
peculiarly fitted for it is no longer worn. It has indeed become
decidedly monotonous, a mere circulating promenade, exciting but
little interest. Unless we could see it danced by some of the old
regime who still wear the ancient costume, or listen to their
animated descriptions of it, we can form no conception of the
numerous incidents, the scenic pantomime, which once rendered it
so effective. By a rare exception this dance was designed to
exhibit the men, to display manly beauty, to set off noble and
dignified deportment, martial yet courtly bearing. "Martial yet
courtly:" do not these two epithets almost define the Polish
character? In the original the very name of the dance is
masculine; it is only in consequence of a misconception that it
has been translated in other tongues into the feminine gender.

Those who have never seen the KONTUSZ worn, (it is a kind of
Occidental kaftan, as it is the robe of the Orientals, modified
to suit the customs of an active life, unfettered by the stagnant
resignation taught by fatalism,) a sort of FEREDGI, often trimmed
with fur, forcing the wearer to make frequent movements
susceptible of grace and coquetry, by which the flowing sleeves
are thrown backward, can scarcely imagine the bearing, the slow
bending, the quick rising, the finesse of the delicate pantomime
displayed by the Ancients, as they defiled in a Polonaise, as
though in a military parade, not suffering their fingers to
remain idle, but sometimes occupying them in playing with the
long moustache, sometimes with the handle of the sword. Both
moustache and sword were essential parts of the costume, and were
indeed objects of vanity with all ages. Diamonds and sapphires
frequently sparkled upon the arms, worn suspended from belts of
cashmere, or from sashes of silk embroidered with gold,
displaying to advantage forms always slightly corpulent; the
moustache often veiled, without quite hiding, some scar, far more
effective than the most brilliant array of jewels. The dress of
the men rivaled that of the women in the luxury of the material
worn, in the value of the precious stones, and in the variety of
vivid colors. This love of adornment is also found among the
Hungarians, [Footnote: The Hungarian costume worn by Prince
Nicholas Esterhazy at the coronation of George the Fourth, is
still remembered in England. It was valued at several millions of
florins.] as may be seen in their buttons made of jewels, the
rings forming a necessary part of their dress, the wrought clasps
for the neck, the aigrettes and plumes adorning the cap made of
velvet of some brilliant hue. To know how to take off, to put on,
to manoeuvre the cap with all possible grace, constituted almost
an art. During the progress of a Polonaise, this became an object
of especial remark, because the cavalier of the leading pair, as
commandant of the file, gave the mute word of command, which was
immediately obeyed and imitated by the rest of the train.

The master of the house in which the ball was given, always
opened it himself by leading off in this dance. His partner was
selected neither for her beauty, nor youth; the most highly
honored lady present was always chosen. This phalanx, by whose
evolutions every fete was commenced, was not formed only of the
young: it was composed of the most distinguished, as well as of
the most beautiful. A grand review, a dazzling exhibition of all
the distinction present, was offered as the highest pleasure of
the festival. After the host, came next in order the guests of
the greatest consideration, who, choosing their partners, some
from friendship, some from policy or from desire of advancement,
some from love,--followed closely his steps. His task was a far
more complicated one than it is at present. He was expected to
conduct the files under his guidance through a thousand
capricious meanderings, through long suites of apartments lined
by guests, who were to take a later part in this brilliant
cortege. They liked to be conducted through distant galleries,
through the parterres of illuminated gardens, through the groves
of shrubbery, where distant echoes of the music alone reached the
ear, which, as if in revenge, greeted them with redoubled sound
and blowing of trumpets upon their return to the principal
saloon. As the spectators, ranged like rows of hedges along the
route, were continually changing, and never ceased for a moment
to observe all their movements, the dancers never forgot that
dignity of bearing and address which won for them the admiration
of women, and excited the jealousy of men. Vain and joyous, the
host would have deemed himself wanting in courtesy to his guests,
had he not evinced to them, which he did sometimes with a piquant
naivete, the pride he felt in seeing himself surrounded by
persons so illustrious, and partisans so noble, all striving
through the splendor of the attire chosen to visit him, to show
their high sense of the honor in which they held him.

Guided by him in their first circuit, they were led through long
windings, where unexpected turns, views, and openings had been
arranged beforehand to cause surprise; where architectural
deceptions, decorations and shifting scenes had been studiously
adapted to increase the pleasure of the festival. If any monument
or inscription, fitted for the occasion, lay upon the long line
of route, from which some complimentary homage might be drawn to
the "most valiant or the most beautiful," the honors were
gracefully done by the host. The more unexpected the surprises
arranged for these excursions, the more imagination evinced in
their invention, the louder were the applauses from the younger
part of the society, the more ardent the exclamations of delight;
and silvery sounds of merry laughter greeted pleasantly the ears
of the conductor-in-chief, who, having thus succeeded in
achieving his reputation, became a privileged Corypheus, a leader
par excellence. If he had already attained a certain age, he was
greeted on his return from such circuits by frequent deputations
of young ladies, who came, in the name of all present, to thank
and congratulate him. Through their vivid descriptions, these
pretty wanderers excited the curiosity of the guests, and
increased the eagerness for the formation of the succeeding
Polonaises among those who, though they did not make part of the
procession, still watched its passage in motionless attention, as
if gazing upon the flashing line of light of some brilliant

In this land of aristocratic democracy, the numerous dependents
of the great seigniorial houses, (too poor, indeed, to take part
in the fete, yet only excluded from it by their own volition,
all, however noble, some even more noble than their lords,) being
all present, it was considered highly desirable to dazzle them;
and this flowing chain of rainbow-hued and gorgeous light, like
an immense serpent with its glittering rings, sometimes wreathed
its linked folds, sometimes uncoiled its entire length, to
display its brilliancy through the whole line of its undulating
animated surface, in the most vivid scintillations; accompanying
the shifting hues with the silvery sounds of chains of gold,
ringing like muffled bells; with the rustling of the heavy sweep
of gorgeous damasks and with the dragging of jewelled swords upon
the floor. The murmuring sound of many voices announced the
approach of this animated, varied, and glittering life-stream.

But the genius of hospitality, never deficient in high-born
courtesy, and which, even while preserving the touching
simplicity of primitive manners, inspired in Poland all the
refinements of the most advanced state of civilization,--how
could it be exiled from the details of a dance so eminently
Polish? After the host had, by inaugurating the fete, rendered
due homage to all who were present, any one of his guests had the
right to claim his place with the lady whom he had honored by his
choice. The new claimant, clapping his hands, to arrest for a
moment the ever moving cortege, bowed before the partner of the
host, begging her graciously to accept the change; while the
host, from whom she had been taken, made the same appeal to the
lady next in course. This example was followed by the whole
train. Constantly changing partners, whenever a new cavalier
claimed the honor of leading the one first chosen by the host,
the ladies remained in the same succession during the whole
course; while, on the contrary, as the gentlemen continually
replaced each other, he who had commenced the dance, would, in
its progress, become the last, if not indeed entirely excluded
before its close.

Each cavalier who placed himself in turn at the head of the
column, tried to surpass his predecessors in the novelty of the
combinations of his opening, in the complications of the windings
through which he led the expectant cortege; and this course, even
when restricted to a single saloon, might be made remarkable by
the designing of graceful arabesques, or the involved tracing of
enigmatical ciphers. He made good his claim to the place he had
solicited, and displayed his skill, by inventing close,
complicated and inextricable figures; by describing them with so
much certainty and accuracy, that the living ribbon, turned and
twisted as it might be, was never broken in the loosing of its
wreathed knots; and by so leading, that no confusion or graceless
jostling should result from the complicated torsion. The
succeeding couples, who had only to follow the figures already
given, and thus continue the impulsion, were not permitted to
drag themselves lazily and listlessly along the parquet. The step
was rhythmic, cadenced, and undulating; the whole form swayed by
graceful wavings and harmonious balancings. They were careful
never to advance with too much haste, nor to replace each other
as if driven on by some urgent necessity. On they glided, like
swans descending a tranquil stream, their flexile forms swayed by
the ebb and swell of unseen and gentle waves. Sometimes, the
gentleman offered the right, sometimes, the left hand to his
partner; touching only the points of her fingers, or clasping the
slight hand within his own, he passed now to her right, now to
her left, without yielding the snowy treasure. These complicated
movements, being instantaneously imitated by every pair, ran,
like an electric shiver, through the whole length of this
gigantic serpent. Although apparently occupied and absorbed by
these multiplied manoeuvres, the cavalier yet found time to bend
to his lady and whisper sweet flatteries in her ear, if she were
young; if young no longer, to repose confidence, to urge
requests, or to repeat to her the news of the hour. Then,
haughtily raising himself, he would make the metal of his arms
ring, caress his thick moustache, giving to all his features an
expression so vivid, that the lady was forced to respond by the
animation of her own countenance.

Thus, it was no hackneyed and senseless promenade which they
executed; it was, rather, a parade in which the whole splendor of
the society was exhibited, gratified with its own admiration,
conscious of its own elegance, brilliancy, nobility and courtesy.
It was a constant display of its lustre, its glory, its renown.
Men grown gray in camps, or in the strife of courtly eloquence;
generals more often seen in the cuirass than in the robes of
peace; prelates and persons high in the Church; dignitaries of
State aged senators; warlike palatines; ambitious castellans;--
were the partners who were expected, welcomed, disputed and
sought for, by the youngest, gayest, and most brilliant women
present. Honor and glory rendered ages equal, and caused years to
be forgotten in this dance; nay, more, they gave an advantage
even over love. It was while listening to the animated
descriptions of the almost forgotten evolutions and dignified
capabilities of this truly national dance, from the lips of those
who would never abandon the ancient Zupan and Kontusz, and who
still wore their hair closely cut round their temples, as it had
been worn by their ancestors, that we first fully understood in
what a high degree this haughty nation possessed the innate
instinct of its own exhibition, and how entirely it had
succeeded, through its natural grace and genius, in poetizing its
love of ostentation by draping it in the charms of noble
emotions, and wrapping round it the glittering robes of martial

When we visited the country of Chopin, whose memory always
accompanied us like a faithful guide who constantly keeps our
interest excited, we were fortunate enough to meet with some of
the peculiar characters, daily growing more rare, because
European civilization, even where it does not modify the basis of
character, effaces asperities, and moulds exterior forms. We
there encountered some of those men gifted with superior
intellect, cultivated and strongly developed by a life of
incessant action, yet whose horizon does not extend beyond the
limits of their own country, their own society, their own
traditions. During our intercourse, facilitated by an
interpreter, with these men of past days, we were able to study
them and to understand the secret of their greatness. It was
really curious to observe the inimitable originality caused by
the utter exclusiveness of the view taken by them. This limited
cultivation, while it greatly diminishes the value of their ideas
upon many subjects, at the same time gifts the mind with a
peculiar force, almost resembling the keen scent and the acute
perceptions of the savage, for all the things near and dear to
it. Only from a mind of this peculiar training, marked by a
concentrative energy that nothing can distract from its course,
every thing beyond the circle of its own nationality remaining
alien to it, can we hope to obtain an exact picture of the past;
for it alone, like a faithful mirror, reflects it in its primal
coloring, preserves its proper lights and shades, and gives it
with its varied and picturesque accompaniments. From such minds
alone can we obtain, with the ritual of customs which are rapidly
becoming extinct, the spirit from which they emanated. Chopin was
born too late, and left the domestic hearth too early, to be
himself in possession of this spirit; but he had known many
examples of it, and, through the memories which surrounded his
childhood, even more fully than through the literature and
history of his country, he found by induction the secrets of its
ancient prestige, which he evoked from the dim and dark land of
forgetfulness, and, through the magic of his poetic art, endowed
with immortal youth. Poets are better comprehended and
appreciated by those who have made themselves familiar with the
countries which inspired their songs. Pindar is more fully
understood by those who have seen the Parthenon bathed in the
radiance of its limpid atmosphere; Ossian, by those familiar with
the mountains of Scotland, with their heavy veils and long
wreaths of mist. The feelings which inspired the creations of
Chopin can only be fully appreciated by those who have visited
his country. They must have seen the giant shadows of past
centuries gradually increasing, and veiling the ground as the
gloomy night of despair rolled on; they must have felt the
electric and mystic influence of that strange "phantom of glory"
forever haunting martyred Poland. Even in the gayest hours of
festival, it appalls and saddens all hearts. Whenever a tale of
past renown, a commemoration of slaughtered heroes is given, an
allusion to national prowess is made, its resurrection from the
grave is instantaneous; it takes its place in the banquet-hall,
spreading an electric terror mingled with intense admiration; a
shudder, wild and mystic as that which seizes upon the peasants
of Ukraine, when the "Beautiful Virgin," white as Death, with her
girdle of crimson, is suddenly seen gliding through their
tranquil village, while her shadowy hand marks with blood the
door of each cottage doomed to destruction.

During many centuries, the civilization of Poland was entirely
peculiar and aboriginal; it did not resemble that of any other
country; and, indeed, it seems destined to remain forever unique
in its kind. As different from the German feudalism which
neighboured it upon the West, as from the conquering spirit of
the Turks which disquieted it on the East, it resembled Europe in
its chivalric Christianity, in its eagerness to attack the
infidel, even while receiving instruction in sagacious policy, in
military tactics, and sententious reasoning, from the masters of
Byzantium. By the assumption, at the same time, of the heroic
qualities of Mussulman fanaticism and the sublime virtues of
Christian sanctity and humility, [Footnote: It is well known with
how many glorious names Poland has enriched the martyrology of
the Church. In memorial of the countless martyrs it had offered,
the Roman Church granted to the order of Trinitarians, or
Redemptorist Brothers, whose duty it was to redeem from slavery
the Christians who had fallen into the hands of the Infidels, the
distinction, only granted to this nation, of wearing a crimson
belt. These victims to benevolence were generally from the
establishments near the frontiers, such as those of Kamieniec-
Podolski.] it mingled the most heterogeneous elements, and thus
planted in its very bosom the seeds of ruin and decay.

The general culture of Latin letters, the knowledge of and love
for Italian and French literature gave a lustre and classical
polish to the startling contrasts we hare attempted to describe.
Such a civilization must necessarily impress all its
manifestations with its own seal. As was natural for a nation
always engaged in war, forced to reserve its deeds of prowess and
valor for its enemies upon the field of battle, it was not famed
for the romances of knight-errantry, for tournaments or jousts;
it replaced the excitement and splendor of the mimic war by
characteristic fetes, in which the gorgeousness of personal
display formed the principal feature.

There is certainly nothing new in the assertion, that national
character is, in some degree, revealed by national dances. We
believe, however, there are none in which the creative impulses
can be so readily deciphered, or the ensemble traced with so much
simplicity, as in the Polonaise. In consequence of the varied
episodes which each individual was expected to insert in the
general frame, the national intuitions were revealed with the
greatest diversity. When these distinctive marks disappeared,
when the original flame no longer burned, when no one invented
scenes for the intermediary pauses, when to accomplish
mechanically the obligatory circuit of a saloon, was all that was
requisite, nothing but the skeleton of departed glory remained.

We would certainly have hesitated to speak of the Polonaise,
after the exquisite verses which Mickiewicz has consecrated to
it, and the admirable description which he has given of it in the
last Canto of the "Pan Tadeusz," but that this description is to
be found only in a work not yet translated, and, consequently,
only known to the compatriots of the Poet. [Footnote: It has been
translated into German.--T.] It would have been presumptuous,
even under another form, to have ventured upon a subject already
sketched and colored by such a hand, in his romantic Epic, in
which beauties of the highest order are set in such a scene as
Ruysdael loved to paint; where a ray of sunshine, thrown through
heavy storm-clouds, falls upon one of those strange trees never
wanting in his pictures, a birch shattered by lightning, while
its snowy bark is deeply stained, as if dyed in the blood flowing
from its fresh and gaping wounds. The scenes of "Pan Tadeusz" are
laid at the beginning of the present century, when many still
lived who retained the profound feeling and grave deportment of
the ancient Poles, mingled with those who were even then under
the sway of the graceful or giddying passions of modern origin.
These striking and contrasting types existing together at that
period, are now rapidly disappearing before that universal
conventionalism which is at present seizing and moulding the
higher classes in all cities and in all countries. Without doubt,
Chopin frequently drew fresh inspiration from this noble poem,
whose scenes so forcibly depict the emotions he best loved to

The primitive music of the Polonaise, of which we have no example
of greater age than a century, possesses but little value for
art. Those Polonaises which do not bear the names of their
authors, but are frequently marked with the name of some hero,
thus indicating their date, are generally grave and sweet. The
Polonaise styled "de Kosciuszko," is the most universally known,
and is so closely linked with the memories of his epoch, that we
have known ladies who could not hear it without breaking into
sobs. The Princess F. L., who had been loved by Kosciuszko, in
her last days, when age had enfeebled all her faculties, was only
sensible to the chords of this piece, which her trembling hands
could still find upon the key-board, though the dim and aged eye
could no longer see the keys. Some contemporary Polonaises are of
a character so sad, that they might almost be supposed to
accompany a funeral train.

The Polonaises of Count Oginski [Footnote: Among the Polonaises
of Count Oginski, the one in F Major has especially retained its
celebrity. It was published with a vignette, representing the
author in the act of blowing his brains out with a pistol. This
was merely a romantic commentary, which was for a long time
mistaken for a fact.] which next appeared, soon attained great
popularity through the introduction of an air of seductive
languor into the melancholy strains. Full of gloom as they still
are, they soothe by their delicious tenderness, by their naive
and mournful grace. The martial rhythm grows more feeble; the
march of the stately train, no longer rustling in its pride of
state, is hushed in reverential silence, in solemn thought, as if
its course wound on through graves, whose sad swells extinguish
smiles and humiliate pride. Love alone survives, as the mourners
wander among the mounds of earth so freshly heaped that the grass
has not yet grown upon them, repeating the sad refrain which the
Bard of Erin caught from the wild breezes of the sea:

"Love born of sorrow, like sorrow is true!"

In the well known pages of Oginski may be found the sighing of
analogous thoughts: the very breath of love is sad, and only
revealed through the melancholy lustre of eyes bathed in tears.

At a somewhat later stage, the graves and grassy mounds were all
passed, they are seen only in the distance of the shadowy
background. The living cannot always weep; life and animation
again appear, mournful thoughts changed into soothing memories,
return on the ear, sweet as distant echoes. The saddened train of
the living no longer hush their breath as they glide on with
noiseless precaution, as if not to disturb the sleep of those who
have just departed, over whose graves the turf is not yet green;
the imagination no longer evokes only the gloomy shadows of the
past. In the Polonaises of Lipinski we hear the music of the
pleasure-loving heart once more beating joyously, giddily,
happily, as it had done before the days of disaster and defeat.
The melodies breathe more and more the perfume of happy youth;
love, young love, sighs around. Expanding into expressive songs
of vague and dreamy character, they speak but to youthful hearts,
cradling them in poetic fictions, in soft illusions. No longer
destined to cadence the steps of the high and grave personages
who ceased to bear their part in these dances, [Footnote: Bishops
and Primates formerly assisted in these dances; at a later date
the Church dignitaries took no part in them.] they are addressed
to romantic imaginations, dreaming rather of rapture than of
renown. Meyseder advanced upon this descending path; his dances,
full of lively coquetry, reflect only the magic charms of youth
and beauty. His numerous imitations have inundated us with pieces
of music, called Polonaises, out which have no characteristics to
justify the name.

The pristine and vigorous brilliancy of the Polonaise was again
suddenly given to it by a composer of true genius. Weber made of
it a Dithyrambic, in which the glittering display of vanished
magnificence again appeared in its ancient glory. He united all
the resources of his art to ennoble the formula which had been so
misrepresented and debased, to fill it with the spirit of the
past; not seeking to recall the character of ancient music, he
transported into music the characteristics of ancient Poland.
Using the melody as a recital, he accentuated the rhythm, he
colored his composition, through his modulations, with a
profusion of hues not only suitable to his subject, but
imperiously demanded by it. Life, warmth, and passion again
circulated in his Polonaises, yet he did not deprive them of the
haughty charm, the ceremonious and magisterial dignity, the
natural yet elaborate majesty, which are essential parts of their
character. The cadences are marked by chords, which fall upon the
ear like the rattling of swords drawn from their scabbards. The
soft, warm, effeminate pleadings of love give place to the
murmuring of deep, fall, bass voices, proceeding from manly
breasts used to command; we may almost hear, in reply, the wild
and distant neighings of the steeds of the desert, as they toss
the long manes around their haughty heads, impatiently pawing the
ground, with their lustrous eye beaming with intelligence and
full of fire, while they bear with stately grace the trailing
caparisons embroidered with turquoise and rubies, with which the
Polish Seigneurs loved to adorn them. [Footnote: Among the
treasures of Prince radziwill at Nieswirz were to be seen, in the
days of former splendor, twelve sets of horse trappings, each of
a different color, incrusted with precious stones. The twelve
Apostles, life size, in massive silver, were also to be seen
there. This luxury will cease to astonish us when we consider
that the family of Radziwill was descended from the last Grand
Pontiff of Lithuania, to whom, when he embraced Christianity,
were given all the forests and plains which had before been
consecrated to the worship of the heathen Deities; and that
toward the close of the last century, the family still possessed
eight hundred thousand serfs, although its riches had then
considerably diminished. Among the collection of treasures of
which we speak, was an exceedingly curious relic, which is still
in existence. It is a picture of St. John the Baptist, surrounded
by a Bannerol bearing the inscription: "In the name of the Lord,
John, thou shalt be Conqueror." It was found by Jean Sobieski
himself, after the victory which he had won, under the walls of
Vienna, in the tent of the Vizier Kara Mustapha. It was presented
after his death, by Marie d'Arquin, to a Prince Radziwill, with
an inscription in her own hand- writing which indicates its
origin, and the presentation which she makes of it. The
autograph, with the royal seal, is on the reverse side of the
canvas.] How did Weber divine the Poland of other days? Had he
indeed the power to call from the grave of the past, the scenes
which we have just contemplated, that he was thus able to clothe
them with life, to renew their earlier associations? Vain
questions! Genius is always endowed with its own sacred
intuitions! Poetry ever reveals to her chosen the secrets of her
wild domain!

All the poetry contained in the Polonaises had, like a rich sap,
been so fully expressed from them by the genius of Weber, they
had been handled with a mastery so absolute, that it was, indeed,
a dangerous and difficult thing to attempt them, with the
slightest hope of producing the same effect. He has, however,
been surpassed in this species of composition by Chopin, not only
in the number and variety of works in this style, but also in the
more touching character of the handling, and the new and varied
processes of harmony. Both in construction and spirit, Chopin's
Polonaise In A, with the one in A flat major, resembles very much
the one of Weber's in E Major. In others he relinquished this
broad style: Shall we say always with a more decided success? In
such a question, decision were a thorny thing. Who shall restrict
the rights of a poet over the various phases of his subject? Even
in the midst of joy, may he not be permitted to be gloomy and
oppressed? After having chanted the splendor of glory, may he not
sing of grief? After having rejoiced with the victorious, may he
not mourn with the vanquished? We may, without any fear of
contradiction, assert, that it is not one of the least merits of
Chopin, that he has, consecutively, embraced ALL the phases of
which the theme is susceptible, that he has succeeded in
eliciting from it all its brilliancy, in awakening from it all
its sadness. The variety of the moods of feeling to which he was
himself subject, aided him in the reproduction and comprehension
of such a multiplicity of views. It would be impossible to follow
the varied transformations occurring in these compositions, with
their pervading melancholy, without admiring the fecundity of his
creative force, even when not fully sustained by the higher
powers of his inspiration. He did not always confine himself to
the consideration of the pictures presented to him by his
imagination and memory, taken en masse, or as a united whole.
More than once, while contemplating the brilliant groups and
throngs flowing on before him, has he yielded to the strange
charm of some isolated figure, arresting it in its course by the
magic of his gaze, and, suffering the gay crowds to pass on, he
has given himself up with delight to the divination of its mystic
revelations, while he continued to weave his incantations and
spells only for the entranced Sibyl of his song.

His GRAND POLONAISE in F SHARP MINOR, must be ranked among his
most energetic compositions. He has inserted in it a MAZOURKA.
Had he not frightened the frivolous world of fashionable life, by
the gloomy grotesqueness with which he introduced it in an
incantation so fantastic, this mode might have become an
ingenious caprice for the ball-room. It is a most original
production, exciting us like the recital of some broken dream,
made, after a night of restlessness, by the first dull, gray,
cold, leaden rays of a winter's sunrise. It is a dream-poem, in
which the impressions and objects succeed each other with
startling incoherency and with the wildest transitions, reminding
us of what Byron says in his "DREAM:"

       "...Dreams in their development have breath,
       And tears, and tortures, and the touch of joy;
       They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts,
       *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *
       And look like heralds of Eternity."

The principal motive is a weird air, dark as the lurid hour which
precedes a hurricane, in which we catch the fierce exclamations
of exasperation, mingled with a bold defiance, recklessly hurled
at the stormy elements. The prolonged return of a tonic, at the
commencement of each measure, reminds us of the repeated roar of
artillery--as if we caught the sounds from some dread battle
waging in the distance. After the termination of this note, a
series of the most unusual chords are unrolled through measure
after measure. We know nothing analogous, to the striking effect
produced by this, in the compositions of the greatest masters.
This passage is suddenly interrupted by a SCENE CHAMPETRE, a
MAZOURKA in the style of an Idyl, full of the perfume of lavender
and sweet marjoram; but which, far from effacing the memory of
the profound sorrow which had before been awakened, only
augments, by its ironical and bitter contrast, our emotions of
pain to such a degree, that we feel almost solaced when the first
phrase returns; and, free from the disturbing contradiction of a
naive, simple, and inglorious happiness, we may again sympathize
with the noble and imposing woe of a high, yet fatal struggle.
This improvisation terminates like a dream, without other
conclusion than a convulsive shudder; leaving the soul under the
strangest, the wildest, the most subduing impressions.

The "POLONAISE-FANTAISIE" is to be classed among the works which
belong to the latest period of Chopin's compositions, which are
all more or less marked by a feverish and restless anxiety. No
bold and brilliant pictures are to be found in it; the loud tramp
of a cavalry accustomed to victory is no longer heard; no more
resound the heroic chants muffled by no visions of defeat--the
bold tones suited to the audacity of those who were always
victorious. A deep melancholy--ever broken by startled movements,
by sudden alarms, by disturbed rest, by stifled sighs--reigns
throughout. We are surrounded by such scenes and feelings as
might arise among those who had been surprised and encompassed on
all sides by an ambuscade, the vast sweep of whose horizon
reveals not a single ground for hope, and whose despair had
giddied the brain, like a draught of that wine of Cyprus which
gives a more instinctive rapidity to all our gestures, a keener
point to all our words, a more subtle flame to all our emotions,
and excites the mind to a pitch of irritability approaching

Such pictures possess but little real value for art. Like all
descriptions of moments of extremity, of agonies, of death
rattles, of contractions of the muscles where all elasticity is
lost, where the nerves, ceasing to be the organs of the human
will, reduce man to a passive victim of despair; they only serve
to torture the soul. Deplorable visions, which the artist should
admit with extreme circumspection within the graceful circle of
his charmed realm!


Chopin's Mazourkas--Polish Ladies--Mazourka in Poland--Tortured
Motives--Early life of Chopin--Zal.

In all that regards expression, the MAZOURKAS of Chopin differ
greatly from his POLONAISES. Indeed they are entirely unlike in
character. The bold and vigorous coloring of the Polonaises gives
place to the most delicate, tender, and evanescent shades in the
Mazourkas. A nation, considered as a whole, in its united,
characteristic, and single impetus, is no longer placed before
us; the character and impressions now become purely personal,
always individualized and divided. No longer is the feminine and
effeminate element driven back into shadowy recesses. On the
contrary, it is brought out in the boldest relief, nay, it is
brought into such prominent importance that all else disappears,
or, at most, serves only as its accompaniment. The days are now
past when to say that a woman was charming, they called her
GRATEFUL (WDZIECZNA); the very word charm being derived from
WDZIEKI: GRATITUDE. Woman no longer appears as a protegee, but as
a queen; she no longer forms only the better part of life, she
now entirely fills it. Man is still ardent, proud, and
presumptuous, but he yields himself up to a delirium of pleasure.
This very pleasure is, however, always stamped with melancholy.
Both the music of the national airs, and the words, which are
almost always joined with them, express mingled emotions of pain
and joy. This strange but attractive contrast was caused by the
necessity of "CONSOLING MISERY" (CIESZYC BIDE), which necessity
induced them to seek the magical distraction of the graceful
Mazourka, with its transient delusions. The words which were sung
to these melodies, gave them a capability of linking themselves
with the sacred associations of memory, in a far higher degree
than is usual with ordinary dance-music. They were sung and re-
sung a thousand times in the days of buoyant youth, by fresh and
sonorous voices, in the hours of solitude, or in those of happy
idleness. Linking the most varying associations with the melody,
they were again and again carelessly hummed when traveling
through forests, or ploughing the deep in ships; perhaps they
were listlessly upon the lips when some startling emotion has
suddenly surprised the singer; when an unexpected meeting, a
long-desired grouping, an unhoped-for word, has thrown an undying
light upon the heart, consecrating hours destined to live
forever, and ever to shine on in the memory, even through the
most distant and gloomy recesses of the constantly darkening

Such inspirations were used by Chopin in the most happy manner,
and greatly enriched with the treasures of his handling and
style. Cutting these diamonds so as to present a thousand facets,
he brought all their latent fire to light, and re-uniting even
their glittering dust, he mounted them in gorgeous caskets.
Indeed what settings could he have chosen better adapted to
enhance the value of his early recollections, or which would have
given him more efficient aid in creating poems, in arranging
scenes, in depicting episodes, in producing romances? Such
associations and national memories are indebted to him for a
reign far more extensive than the land which gave them birth.
Placing them among those idealized types which art has touched
and consecrated with her resplendent lustre, he has gifted them
with immortality.

In order fully to understand how perfectly this setting suited
the varying emotions which Chopin had succeeded in displaying in
all the magic of their rainbow hues, we must have seen the
Mazourka danced in Poland, because it is only there that it is
possible to catch the haughty, yet tender and alluring, character
of this dance. The cavalier, always chosen by the lady, seizes
her as a conquest of which he is proud, striving to exhibit her
loveliness to the admiration of his rivals, before he whirls her
off in an entrancing and ardent embrace, through the tenderness
of which the defiant expression of the victor still gleams,
mingling with the blushing yet gratified vanity of the prize,
whose beauty forms the glory of his triumph. There are few more
delightful scenes than a ball in Poland. After the Mazourka has
commenced, the attention, in place of being distracted by a
multitude of people jostling against each other without grace or
order, is fascinated by one couple of equal beauty, darting
forward, like twin stars, in free and unimpeded space. As if in
the pride of defiance, the cavalier accentuates his steps, quits
his partner for a moment, as if to contemplate her with renewed
delight, rejoins her with passionate eagerness, or whirls himself
rapidly round, as though overcome with the sudden joy and
yielding to the delicious giddiness of rapture. Sometimes, two
couples start at the same moment, after which a change of
partners may occur between them; or a third cavalier may present
himself, and, clapping his hands, claim one of the ladies as his
partner. The queens of the festival are in turn claimed by the
most brilliant gentlemen present, courting the honor of leading
them through the mazes of the dance.

While in the Waltz and Galop, the dancers are isolated, and only
confused tableaux are offered to the bystanders; while the
Quadrille is only a kind of pass at arms made with foils, where
attack and defence proceed with equal indifference, where the
most nonchalant display of grace is answered with the same
nonchalance; while the vivacity of the Polka, charming, we
confess, may easily become equivocal; while Fandangos, Tarantulas
and Minuets, are merely little love-dramas, only interesting to
those who execute them, in which the cavalier has nothing to do
but to display his partner, and the spectators have no share but
to follow, tediously enough, coquetries whose obligatory
movements are not addressed to them;--in the Mazourka, on the
contrary, they have also their part, and the role of the cavalier
yields neither in grace nor importance to that of his fair

The long intervals which separate the successive appearance of
the pairs being reserved for conversation among the dancers, when
their turn comes again, the scene passes no longer only among
themselves, but extends from them to the spectators. It is to
them that the cavalier exhibits the vanity he feels in having
been able to win the preference of the lady who has selected him;
it is in their presence she has deigned to show him this honor;
she strives to please them, because the triumph of charming them
is reflected upon her partner, and their applause may be made a
part of the most flattering and insinuating coquetry. Indeed, at
the close of the dance, she seems to make him a formal offering
of their suffrages in her favor. She bounds rapidly towards him
and rests upon his arm,--a movement susceptible of a thousand
varying shades which feminine tact and subtle feeling well know
how to modify, ringing every change, from the most impassioned
and impulsive warmth of manner to an air of the most complete

What varied movements succeed each other in the course round the
ball-room! Commencing at first with a kind of timid hesitation,
the lady sways about like a bird about to take flight; gliding
for some time on one foot only, like a skater, she skims the ice
of the polished floor; then, running forward like a sportive
child, she suddenly takes wing. Raising her veiling eyelids, with
head erect, with swelling bosom and elastic bounds, she cleaves
the air as the light bark cleaves the waves, and, like an agile
woodnymph, seems to sport with space. Again she recommences her
timid graceful gliding, looks round among the spectators, sends
sighs and words to the most, highly favored, then extending her
white arms to the partner who comes to rejoin her, again begins
her vigorous steps which transport her with magical rapidity from
one end to the other of the ball-room. She glides, she runs, she
flies; emotion colors her cheek, brightens her eye; fatigue bends
her flexile form, retards her winged feet, until, panting and
exhausted, she softly sinks and reclines in the arms of her
partner, who, seizing her with vigorous arm, raises her a moment
in the air, before finishing with her the last intoxicating

In this triumphal course, in which may be seen a thousand
Atalantas as beautiful as the dreams of Ovid, many changes occur
in the figures. The couples, in the first chain, commence by
giving each other the hand; then forming themselves into a
circle, whose rapid rotation dazzles the eye, they wreathe a
living crown, in which each lady is the only flower of its own
kind, while the glowing and varied colors are heightened by the
uniform costume of the men, the effect resembling that of the
dark-green foliage with which nature relieves her glowing buds
and fragrant bloom. They all then dart forward together with a
sparkling animation, a jealous emulation, defiling before the
spectators as in a review--an enumeration of which would scarcely
yield in interest to those given us, by Homer and Tasso, of the
armies about to range themselves in the front of battle! At the
close of an hour or two, the same circle again forms to end the
dance; and on those days when amusement and pleasure fill all
with an excited gayety, sparkling and glittering through those
impressible temperaments like an aurora in a midnight sky, a
general promenade is recommenced, and in its accelerated
movements, we cannot detect the least symptom of fatigue among
all these delicate yet enduring women; as if their light limbs
possessed the flexible tenacity and elasticity of steel!

As if by intuition, all the Polish women possess the magical
science of this dance. Even the least richly gifted among them
know how to draw from it new charms. If the graceful ease and
noble dignity of those conscious of their own power are full of
attraction in it, timidity and modesty are equally full of
interest. This is so because of all modern dances, it breathes
most of pure love. As the dancers are always conscious that the
gaze of the spectators is fastened upon them, addressing
themselves constantly to them, there reigns in its very essence a
mixture of innate tenderness and mutual vanity, as full of
delicacy and propriety as of allurement.

The latent and unknown poetry, which was only indicated in the
original Polish Mazourkas, was divined, developed, and brought to
light, by Chopin. Preserving their rhythm, he ennobled their
melody, enlarged their proportions; and--in order to paint more
fully in these productions, which he loved to hear us call
"pictures from the easel," the innumerable and widely-differing
emotions which agitate the heart during the progress of this
dance, above all, in the long intervals in which the cavalier has
a right to retain his place at the side of the lady, whom he
never leaves--he wrought into their tissues harmonic lights and
shadows, as new in themselves as were the subjects to which he
adapted them.

Coquetries, vanities, fantasies, inclinations, elegies, vague
emotions, passions, conquests, struggles upon which the safety or
favor of others depends, all--all, meet in this dance. How
difficult it is to form a complete idea of the infinite
gradations of passion--sometimes pausing, sometimes progressing,
sometimes suing, sometimes ruling! In the country where the
Mazourka reigns from the palace to the cottage, these gradations
are pursued, for a longer or shorter time, with as much ardor and
enthusiasm as malicious trifling. The good qualities and faults
of men are distributed among the Poles in a manner so fantastic,
that, although the essentials of character may remain nearly the
same in all, they vary and shade into each other in a manner so
extraordinary, that it becomes almost impossible to recognize or
distinguish them. In natures so capriciously amalgamated, a
wonderful diversity occurs, adding to the investigations of
curiosity, a spur unknown in other lands; making of every new
relation a stimulating study, and lending unwonted interest to
the lightest incident. Nothing is here indifferent, nothing
unheeded, nothing hackneyed! Striking contrasts are constantly
occurring among these natures so mobile and susceptible, endowed
with subtle, keen and vivid intellects, with acute sensibilities
increased by suffering and misfortune; contrasts throwing lurid
light upon hearts, like the blaze of a conflagration illumining
and revealing the gloom of midnight. Here chance may bring
together those who but a few hours before were strangers to each
other. The ordeal of a moment, a single word, may separate hearts
long united; sudden confidences are often forced by necessity,
and invincible suspicions frequently held in secret. As a witty
woman once remarked: "They often play a comedy, to avoid a
tragedy!" That which has never been uttered, is yet incessantly
divined and understood. Generalities are often used to sharpen
interrogation, while concealing its drift; the most evasive
replies are carefully listened to, like the ringing of metal, as
a test of the quality. Often, when in appearance pleading for
others, the suitor is urging his own cause; and the most graceful
flattery may be only the veil of disguised exactions.

But caution and attention become at last wearisome to natures
naturally expansive and candid, and a tiresome frivolity,
surprising enough before the secret of its reckless indifference
has been divined, mingles with the most spiritual refinement, the
most poetic sentiments, the most real causes for intense
suffering, as if to mock and jeer at all reality. It is difficult
to analyze or appreciate justly this frivolity, as it is
sometimes real, sometimes only assumed. It makes use of confusing
replies and strange resources to conceal the truth. It is
sometimes justly, sometimes wrongfully regarded as a kind of veil
of motley, whose fantastic tissue needs only to be slightly torn
to reveal more than one hidden or sleeping quality under the
variegated folds of gossamer. It often follows from such causes,
that eloquence becomes only a sort of grave badinage, sparkling
with spangles like the play of fireworks, though the heart of the
discourse may contain nothing earnest; while the lightest
raillery, thrown out apparently at random, may perhaps be most
sadly serious. Bitter and intense thought follows closely upon
the steps of the most tempestuous gayety; nothing indeed remains
absolutely superficial, though nothing is presented without an
artificial polish. In the discussions constantly occurring in
this country, where conversation is an art cultivated to the
highest degree, and occupying much time, there are always those
present, who, whether the topic discussed be grave or gay, can
pass in a moment from smiles to tears, from joy to sorrow,
leaving the keenest observer in doubt which is most real, so
difficult is it to discern the fictitious from the true.

In such varying modes of thought, where ideas shift like quick
sands upon the shores of the sea, they are rarely to be found
again at the exact point where they were left. This fact is in
itself sufficient to give interest to interviews otherwise
insignificant. We have been taught this in Paris by some natives
of Poland, who astonished the Parisians by their skill in
"fencing in paradox;" an art in which every Pole is more or less
skillful, as he has felt more or less interest or amusement in
its cultivation. But the inimitable skill with which they are
constantly able to alternate the garb of truth or fiction (like
touchstones, more certain when least suspected, the one always
concealed under the garb of the other), the force which expends
an immense amount of intellect upon the most trivial occasions,
as Gil Bias made use of as much intelligence to find the means of
subsistence for a single day, as was required by the Spanish king
to govern the whole of his domain; make at last an impression as
painful upon us as the games in which the jugglers of India
exhibit such wonderful skill, where sharp and deadly arms fly
glittering through the air, which the least error, the least want
of perfect mastery, would make the bright, swift messengers of
certain death! Such skill is full of concealed anxiety, terror,
and anguish! From the complication of circumstances, danger may
lurk in the slightest inadvertence, in the least imprudence, in
possible accidents, while powerful assistance may suddenly spring
from some obscure and forgotten individual. A dramatic interest
may instantaneously arise from interviews apparently the most
trivial, giving an unforeseen phase to every relation. A misty
uncertainty hovers round every meeting, through whose clouds it
is difficult to seize the contours, to fix the lines, to
ascertain the present and future influence, thus rendering
intercourse vague and unintelligible, filling it with an
indefinable and hidden terror, yet, at the same time, with an
insinuating flattery. The strong currents of genuine sympathy are
always struggling to escape from the weight of this external
repression. The differing impulses of vanity, love, and
patriotism, in their threefold motives of action, are forever
hurtling against each other in all hearts, leading to
inextricable confusion of thought and feeling.

What mingling emotions are concentrated in the accidental
meetings of the Mazourka! It can surround, with its own
enchantment, the lightest emotion of the heart, while, through
its magic, the most reserved, transitory, and trivial rencounter
appeals to the imagination. Could it be otherwise in the presence
of the women who give to this dance that inimitable grace and
suavity, for which, in less happy countries, they struggle in
vain? In very truth are not the Sclavic women utterly
incomparable? There are to be found among them those whose
qualities and virtues are so incontestable, so absolute, that
they are acknowledged by all ages, and by all countries. Such
apparitions are always and everywhere rare. The women of Poland
are generally distinguished by an originality full of fire.
Parisians in their grace and culture, Eastern dancing girls in
their languid fire, they have perhaps preserved among them,
handed down from mother to daughter, the secret of the burning
love potions possessed in the seraglios. Their charms possess the
strange spell of Asiatic languor. With the flames of spiritual
and intellectual Houris in their lustrous eyes, we find the
luxurious indolence of the Sultana. Their manners caress without
emboldening; the grace of their languid movements is
intoxicating; they allure by a flexibility of form, which knows
no restraint, save that of perfect modesty, and which etiquette
has never succeeded in robbing of its willowy grace. They win
upon us by those intonations of voice which touch the heart, and
fill the eye with tender tears; by those sudden and graceful
impulses which recall the spontaneity and beautiful timidity of
the gazelle. Intelligent, cultivated, comprehending every thing
with rapidity, skillful in the use of all they have acquired;
they are nevertheless as superstitious and fastidious as the
lovely yet ignorant creatures adored by the Arabian prophet.
Generous, devout, loving danger and loving love, from which they
demand much, and to which they grant little; beyond every thing
they prize renown and glory. All heroism is dear to them. Perhaps
there is no one among them who would think it possible to pay too
dearly for a brilliant action; and yet, let us say it with
reverence, many of them devote to obscurity their most holy
sacrifices, their most sublime virtues. But however exemplary
these quiet virtues of the home life may be, neither the miseries
of private life, nor the secret sorrows which must prey upon
souls too ardent not to be frequently wounded, can diminish the
wonderful vivacity of their emotions, which they know how to
communicate with the infallible rapidity and certainty of an
electric spark. Discreet by nature and position, they manage the
great weapon of dissimulation with incredible dexterity,
skillfully reading the souls of others with out revealing the
secrets of their own. With that strange pride which disdains to
exhibit characteristic or individual qualities, it is frequently
the most noble virtues which are thus concealed. The internal
contempt they feel for those who cannot divine them, gives them
that superiority which enables them to reign so absolutely over
those whom they have enthralled, flattered, subjugated, charmed;
until the moment arrives when--loving with the whole force of
their ardent souls, they are willing to brave and share the most
bitter suffering, prison, exile, even death itself, with the
object of their love! Ever faithful, ever consoling, ever tender,
ever unchangeable in the intensity of their generous devotion!
Irresistible beings, who in fascinating and charming, yet demand
an earnest and devout esteem! In that precious incense of praise
burned by M. de Balzac, "in honor of that daughter of a foreign
soil," he has thus sketched the Polish woman in hues composed
entirely of antitheses: "Angel through love, demon through
fantasy; child through faith, sage through experience; man
through the brain, woman through the heart; giant through hope,
mother through sorrow; and poet through dreams." [Footnote:
Dedication of "Modeste Mignon".]

The homage inspired by the Polish women is always fervent. They
all possess the poetic conception of an ideal, which gleams
through their intercourse like an image constantly passing before
a mirror, the comprehension and seizure of which they impose as a
task. Despising the insipid and common pleasure of merely being
able to please, they demand that the being whom they love shall
be capable of exacting their esteem. This romantic temperament
sometimes retains them long in hesitation between the world and
the cloister. Indeed, there are few among them who at some moment
of their lives have not seriously and bitterly thought of taking
refuge within the walls of a convent.

Where such women reign as sovereigns, what feverish words, what
hopes, what despair, what entrancing fascinations must occur in
the mazes of the Mazourka; the Mazourka, whose every cadence
vibrates in the ear of the Polish lady as the echo of a vanished
passion, or the whisper of a tender declaration. Which among them
has ever danced through a Mazourka, whose cheeks burned not more
from the excitement of emotion than from mere physical fatigue?
What unexpected and endearing ties have been formed in the long
tete-a-tete, in the very midst of crowds, with the sounds of
music, which generally recalled the name of some hero or some
proud historical remembrance attached to the words, floating
around, while thus the associations of love and heroism became
forever attached to the words and melodies! What ardent vows have
been exchanged; what wild and despairing farewells been breathed!
How many brief attachments have been linked and as suddenly
unlinked, between those who had never met before, who were never,
never to meet again--and yet, to whom forgetfulness had become
forever impossible! What hopeless love may have been revealed
during the moments so rare upon this earth; when beauty is more
highly esteemed than riches, a noble bearing of more consequence
than rank! What dark destinies forever severed by the tyranny of
rank and wealth may have been, in these fleeting moments of
meeting, again united, happy in the glitter of passing triumph,
reveling in concealed and unsuspected joy! What interviews,
commenced in indifference, prolonged in jest, interrupted with
emotion, renewed with the secret consciousness of mutual
understanding, (in all that concerns subtle intuition Slavic
finesse and delicacy especially excel,) have terminated in the
deepest attachments! What holy confidences have been exchanged in
the spirit of that generous frankness which circulates from
unknown to unknown, when the noble are delivered from the tyranny
of forced conventionalisms! What words deceitfully bland, what
vows, what desires, what vague hopes have been negligently thrown
on the winds;--thrown as the handkerchief of the fair dancer in
the Mazourka...and which the maladroit knows not how to pick

We have before asserted that we must have known personally the
women of Poland, for the full and intuitive comprehension of the
feelings with which the Mazourkas of Chopin, as well as many more
of his compositions, are impregnated. A subtle love vapor floats
like an ambient fluid around them; we may trace step by step in
his Preludes, Nocturnes Impromptus and Mazourkas, all the phases
of which passion is capable The sportive hues of coquetry the
insensible and gradual yielding of inclination, the capricious
festoons of fantasy; the sadness of sickly joys born dying,
flowers of mourning like the black roses, the very perfume of
whose gloomy leaves is depressing, and whose petals are so frail
that the faintest sigh is sufficient to detach them from the
fragile stem; sudden flames without thought, like the false
shining of that decayed and dead wood which only glitters in
obscurity and crumbles at the touch; pleasures without past and
without future, snatched from accidental meetings; illusions,
inexplicable excitements tempting to adventure, like the sharp
taste of half ripened fruit which stimulates and pleases even
while it sets the teeth on edge; emotions without memory and
without hope; shadowy feelings whose chromatic tints are
interminable;--are all found in these works, endowed by genius
with the innate nobility, the beauty, the distinction, the
surpassing elegance of those by whom they are experienced.

In the compositions just mentioned, as well as in most of his
Ballads, Waltzes and Etudes, the rendering of some of the
poetical subjects to which we have just alluded, may be found
embalmed. These fugitive poems are so idealized, rendered so
fragile and attenuated, that they scarcely seem to belong to
human nature, but rather to a fairy world, unveiling the
indiscreet confidences of Peris, of Titanias, of Ariels, of Queen
Mabs, of the Genii of the air, of water, and of fire,--like
ourselves, subject to bitter disappointments, to invincible

Some of these compositions are as gay and fantastic as the wiles
of an enamored, yet mischievous sylph; some are soft, playing in
undulating light, like the hues of a salamander; some, full of
the most profound discouragement, as if the sighs of souls in
pain, who could find none to offer up the charitable prayers
necessary for their deliverance, breathed through their notes.
Sometimes a despair so inconsolable is stamped upon them, that we
feel ourselves present at some Byronic tragedy, oppressed by the
anguish of a Jacopo Foscari, unable to survive the agony of
exile. In some we hear the shuddering spasms of suppressed sobs.
Some of them, in which the black keys are exclusively taken, are
acute and subtle, and remind us of the character of his own
gaiety, lover of atticism as he was, subject only to the higher
emotions, recoiling from all vulgar mirth, from coarse laughter,
and from low enjoyments, as we do from those animals more abject
than venomous, whose very sight causes the most nauseating
repulsion in tender and sensitive natures.

An exceeding variety of subjects and impressions occur in the
great number of his Mazourkas. Sometimes we catch the manly
sounds of the rattling of spurs, but it is generally the almost
imperceptible rustling of crape and gauze under the light breath
of the dancers, or the clinking of chains of gold and diamonds,
that maybe distinguished. Some of them seem to depict the defiant
pleasure of the ball given on the eve of battle, tortured however
by anxiety for, through the rhythm of the dance, we hear the
sighs and despairing farewells of hearts forced to suppress their
tears. Others reveal to us the discomfort and secret ennui of
those guests at a fete, who find it in vain to expect that the
gay sounds will muffle the sharp cries of anguished spirits. We
sometimes catch the gasping breath of terror and stifled fears;
sometimes divine the dim presentiments of a love destined to
perpetual struggle and doomed to survive all hope, which, though
devoured by jealousy and conscious that it can never be the
victor, still disdains to curse, and takes refuge in a soul-
subduing pity. In others we feel as if borne into the heart of a
whirlwind, a strange madness; in the midst of the mystic
confusion, an abrupt melody passes and repasses, panting and
palpitating, like the throbbing of a heart faint with longing,
gasping in despair, breaking in anguish, dying of hopeless, yet
indignant love. In some we hear the distant flourish of trumpets,
like fading memories of glories past, in some of them, the rhythm
is as floating, as undetermined, as shadowy, as the feeling with
which two young lovers gaze upon the first star of evening, as
yet alone in the dim skies.

Upon one afternoon, when there were but three persons present,
and Chopin had been playing for a long time, one of the most
distinguished women in Paris remarked, that she felt always more
and more filled with solemn meditation, such as might be awakened
in presence of the grave-stones strewing those grounds in Turkey,
whose shady recesses and bright beds of flowers promise only a
gay garden to the startled traveller. She asked him what was the
cause of the involuntary, yet sad veneration which subdued her
heart while listening to these pieces, apparently presenting only
sweet and graceful subjects:--and by what name he called the
strange emotion inclosed in his compositions, like ashes of the
unknown dead in superbly sculptured urns of the purest
alabaster...Conquered by the appealing tears which moistened the
beautiful eyes, with a candor rare indeed in this artist, so
susceptible upon all that related to the secrets of the sacred
relics buried in the gorgeous shrines of his music, he replied:
"that her heart had not deceived her in the gloom which she felt
stealing upon her, for whatever might have been his transitory
pleasures, he had never been free from a feeling which might
almost be said to form the soil of his heart, and for which he
could find no appropriate expression except in his own language,
no other possessing a term equivalent to the Polish word: ZAL!"
As if his ear thirsted for the sound of this word, which
expresses the whole range of emotions produced by an intense
regret, through all the shades of feeling, from hatred to
repentance, he repeated it again and again.

ZAL! Strange substantive, embracing a strange diversity, a
strange philosophy! Susceptible of different regimens, it
includes all the tenderness, all the humility of a regret borne
with resignation and without a murmur, while bowing before the
fiat of necessity, the inscrutable decrees of Providence: but,
changing its character, and assuming the regimen indirect as soon
as it is addressed to man, it signifies  excitement, agitation,
rancor, revolt full of reproach, premeditated vengeance, menace
never ceasing to threaten if retaliation should ever become
possible, feeding itself meanwhile with a bitter, if sterile

ZAL! In very truth, it colors the whole of Chopin's compositions:
sometimes wrought through their elaborate tissue, like threads of
dim silver; sometimes coloring them with more passionate hues. It
may be found in his sweetest reveries; even in those which that
Shakespearian genius, Berlioz, comprehending all extremes, has so
well characterized as "divine coquetries"--coquetries only
understood in semi-oriental countries; coquetries in which men
are cradled by their mothers, with which they are tormented by
their sisters, and enchanted by those they love; and which cause
the coquetries of other women to appear insipid or coarse in
their eyes; inducing them to exclaim, with an appearance of
boasting, yet in which they are entirely justified by the truth:
NIEMA IAK POLKI! "Nothing equals the Polish women!" [Footnote:
The custom formerly in use of drinking, in her own shoe, the
health of the woman they loved, is one of the most original
traditions of the enthusiastic gallantry if the Poles.] Through
the secrets of these "divine coquetries" those adorable beings
are formed, who are alone capable of fulfilling the impassioned
ideals of poets who, like M. de Chateaubriand, in the feverish
sleeplessness of their adolescence, create for themselves visions
"of an Eve, innocent, yet fallen; ignorant of all, yet knowing
all; mistress, yet virgin." [Footnote: Memoires d'Outre Tombe. 1st
vol. Incantation.] The only being which was ever found to
resemble this dream, was a Polish girl of seventeen--"a mixture
of the Odalisque and Valkyria...realization of the ancient sylph-
-new Flora--freed from the chain of the seasons" [Footnote: Idem.
3d vol. Atala.]--and whom M. de Chateaubriand feared to meet
again. "Divine coquetries" at once generous and avaricious;
impressing the floating, wavy, rocking, undecided motion of a
boat without rigging or oars upon the charmed and intoxicated

Through his peculiar style of performance, Chopin imparted this
constant rocking with the most fascinating effect; thus making
the melody undulate to and fro, like a skiff driven on over the
bosom of tossing waves. This manner of execution, which set a
seal so peculiar upon his own style of playing, was at first
indicated by the term 'tempo rubato', affixed to his writings: a
Tempo agitated, broken, interrupted, a movement flexible, yet at
the same time abrupt and languishing, and vacillating as the
flame under the fluctuating breath by which it is agitated. In
his later productions we no longer find this mark. He was
convinced that if the performer understood them, he would divine
this rule of irregularity. All his compositions should be played
with this accentuated and measured swaying and balancing. It is
difficult for those who have not frequently heard him play to
catch this secret of their proper execution. He seemed desirous
of imparting this style to his numerous pupils, particularly
those of his own country. His countrymen, or rather his
countrywomen, seized it with the facility with which they
understand every thing relating to poetry or feeling; an innate,
intuitive comprehension of his meaning aided them in following
all the fluctuations of his depths of aerial and spiritual blue.


Chopin's Mode of Playing--Concerts--The Elite--Fading Bouquets
and Immortal Crowns--Hospitality--Heine--Meyerbeer--Adolphe
Nourrit--Eugene Delacroix--Niemcevicz--Mickiewicz--George Sand.

AFTER having described the compositions palpitating with emotion
in which genius struggles with grief, (grief, that terrible
reality which Art must strive to reconcile with Heaven),
confronting it sometimes as conqueror, sometimes as conquered;
compositions in which all the memories of his youth, the
affections of his heart, the mysteries of his desires, the
secrets of his untold passions, are collected like tears in a
lachrymatory; compositions in which, passing the limits of human
sensations--too dull for his eager fancy, too obtuse for his keen
perceptions--he makes incursions into the realms of Dryads,
Oreads, and Oceanides;--we would naturally be expected to speak
of his talent for execution. But this task we cannot assume. We
cannot command the melancholy courage to exhume emotions linked
with our fondest memories, our dearest personal recollections; we
cannot force ourselves to make the mournful effort to color the
gloomy shrouds, veiling the skill we once loved, with the
brilliant hues they would exact at our hands. We feel our loss
too bitterly to attempt such an analysis. And what result would
it be possible to attain with all our efforts! We could not hope
to convey to those who have never heard him, any just conception
of that fascination so ineffably poetic, that charm subtle and
penetrating as the delicate perfume of the vervain or the
Ethiopian calla, which, shrinking and exclusive, refuses to
diffuse its exquisite aroma in the noisome breath of crowds,
whose heavy air can only retain the stronger odor of the
tuberose, the incense of burning resin.

By the purity of its handling, by its relation with LA FEE AUX
MIETTES and LES LUTINS D'ARGAIL, by its rencounters with the
SERAPHINS and DIANES, who murmur in his ear their most
confidential complaints, their most secret dreams, the style and
the manner of conception of Chopin remind us of Nodier. He knew
that he did not act upon the masses, that he could not warm the
multitude, which is like a sea of lead, and as heavy to set in
motion, and which, though its waves may be melted and rendered
malleable by heat, requires the powerful arm of an athletic
Cyclops to manipulate, fuse, and pour into moulds, where the dull
metal, glowing and seething under the electric fire, becomes
thought and feeling under the new form into which it has been
forced. He knew he was only perfectly appreciated in those
meetings, unfortunately too few, in which ALL his hearers were
prepared to follow him into those spheres which the ancients
imagined to be entered only through a gate of ivory, to be
surrounded by pilasters of diamond, and surmounted by a dome
arched with fawn-colored crystal, upon which played the various
dyes of the prism; spheres, like the Mexican opal, whose
kaleidoscopical foci are dimmed by olive-colored mists veiling
and unveiling the inner glories; spheres, in which all is magical
and supernatural, reminding us of the marvellous worlds of
realized dreams. In such spheres Chopin delighted. He once
remarked to a friend, an artist who has since been frequently
heard: "I am not suited for concert giving; the public intimidate
me; their looks, only stimulated by curiosity, paralyze me; their
strange faces oppress me; their breath stifles me: but you--you
are destined for it, for when you do not gain your public, you
have the force to assault, to overwhelm, to control, to compel

Conscious of how much was necessary for the comprehension of his
peculiar talent, he played but rarely in public. With the
exception of some concerts given at his debut in 1831, in Vienna
and Munich, he gave no more, except in Paris, being indeed not
able to travel on account of his health, which was so precarious,
that during entire months, he would appear to be in an almost
dying state. During the only excursion which he made with a hope
that the mildness of a Southern climate would be more conducive
to his health, his condition was frequently so alarming, that
more than once the hotel keepers demanded payment for the bed and
mattress he occupied, in order to have them burned, deeming him
already arrived at that stage of consumption in which it becomes
so highly contagious We believe, however, if we may be permitted
to say it, that his concerts were less fatiguing to his physical
constitution, than to his artistic susceptibility. We think that
his voluntary abnegation of popular applause veiled an internal
wound. He was perfectly aware of his own superiority; perhaps it
did not receive sufficient reverberation and echo from without to
give him the tranquil assurance that he was perfectly
appreciated. No doubt, in the absence of popular acclamation, he
asked himself how far a chosen audience, through the enthusiasm
of its applause, was able to replace the great public which he
relinquished. Few understood him:--did those few indeed
understand him aright? A gnawing feeling of discontent, of which
he himself scarcely comprehended the cause, secretly undermined
him. We have seen him almost shocked by eulogy. The praise to
which he was justly entitled not reaching him EN MASSE, he looked
upon isolated commendation as almost wounding. That he felt
himself not only slightly, but badly applauded, was sufficiently
evident by the polished phrases with which, like troublesome
dust, he shook such praises off, making it quite evident that he
preferred to be left undisturbed in the enjoyment of his solitary
feelings to injudicious commendation.

Too fine a connoisseur in raillery, too ingenious satirist ever
to expose himself to sarcasm, he never assumed the role of a
"genius misunderstood." With a good grace and under an apparent
satisfaction, he concealed so entirely the wound given to his
just pride, that its very existence was scarcely suspected. But
not without reason, might the gradually increasing rarity
[Footnote: Sometimes he passed years without giving a single
concert. We believe the one given by him in Pleyel's room, in
1844, was after an interval of nearly ten years] of his concerts
be attributed rather to the wish he felt to avoid occasions which
did not bring him the tribute he merited, than to physical
debility. Indeed, he put his strength to rude proofs in the many
lessons which he always gave, and the many hours he spent at his
own Piano.

It is to be regretted that the indubitable advantage for the
artist resulting from the cultivation of only a select audience,
should be so sensibly diminished by the rare and cold expression
of its sympathies. The GLACE which covers the grace of the ELITE,
as it does the fruit of their desserts; the imperturbable calm of
their most earnest enthusiasm, could not be satisfactory to
Chopin. The poet, torn from his solitary inspiration, can only
find it again in the interest, more than attentive, vivid and
animated of his audience. He can never hope to regain it in the
cold looks of an Areopagus assembled to judge him. He must FEEL
that he moves, that he agitates those who hear him, that his
emotions find in them the responsive sympathies of the same
intuitions, that he draws them on with him in his flight towards
the infinite: as when the leader of a winged train gives the
signal of departure, he is immediately followed by the whole
flock in search of milder shores.

But had it been otherwise--had Chopin everywhere received the
exalted homage and admiration he so well deserved; had he been
heard, as so many others, by all nations and in all climates; had
ho obtained those brilliant ovations which make a Capitol every
where, where the people salute merit or honor genius had he been
known and recognized by thousands in place of the hundreds who
acknowledged him--we would not pause in this part of his career
to enumerate such triumphs.

What are the dying bouquets of an hour to those whose brows claim
the laurel of immortality? Ephemeral sympathies, transitory
praises, are not to be mentioned in the presence of the august
Dead, crowned with higher glories. The joys, the consolations,
the soothing emotions which the creations of true art awaken in
the weary, suffering, thirsty, or persevering and believing
hearts to whom they are dedicated, are destined to be borne into
far countries and distant years, by the sacred works of Chopin.
Thus an unbroken bond will be established between elevated
natures, enabling them to understand and appreciate each other,
in whatever part of the earth or period of time they may live.
Such natures are generally badly divined by their contemporaries
when they have been silent, often misunderstood when they have
spoken the most eloquently!

"There are different crowns," says Goethe, "there are some which
may be readily gathered during a walk." Such crowns charm for the
moment through their balmy freshness, but who would think of
comparing them with those so laboriously gained by Chopin by
constant and exemplary effort, by an earnest love of art, and by
his own mournful experience of the emotions which he has so
truthfully depicted?

As he sought not with a mean avidity those crowns so easily won,
of which more than one among ourselves has the modesty to be
proud; as he was a pure, generous, good and compassionate man,
filled with a single sentiment, and that one of the most noble of
feelings, the love of country; as he moved among us like a spirit
consecrated by all that Poland possesses of poetry; let us
approach his sacred grave with due reverence! Let us adorn it
with no artificial wreaths! Let us cast upon it no trivial
crowns! Let us nobly elevate our thoughts before this consecrated
shroud! Let us learn from him to repulse all but the highest
ambition, let us try to concentrate our labor upon efforts which
will leave more lasting effects than the vain leading of the
fashions of the passing hour. Let us renounce the corrupt spirit
of the times in which we live, with all that is not worthy of
art, all that will not endure, all that does not contain in
itself some spark of that eternal and immaterial beauty, which it
is the task of art to reveal and unveil as the condition of its
own glory! Let us remember the ancient prayer of the Dorians
whose simple formula is so full of pious poetry, asking only of
their gods: "To give them the Good, in return for the Beautiful!"
In place of laboring so constantly to attract auditors, and
striving to please them at whatever sacrifice, let us rather aim,
like Chopin, to leave a celestial and immortal echo of what we
have felt, loved, and suffered! Let us learn, from his revered
memory, to demand from ourselves works which will entitle us to
some true rank in the sacred city of art! Let us not exact from
the present with out regard to the future, those light and vain
wreath which are scarcely woven before they are faded and

In place of such crowns, the most glorious palms which it is
possible for an artist to receive during his lifetime, have been
placed in the hands of Chopin by ILLUSTRIOUS EQUALS. An
enthusiastic admiration was given him by a public still more
limited than the musical aristocracy which frequented his
concerts. This public was formed of the most distinguished names
of men, who bowed before him as the kings of different empires
bend before a monarch whom they have assembled to honor. Such men
rendered to him, individually, due homage. How could it have been
otherwise in France, where the hospitality, so truly national,
discerns with such perfect taste the rank and claims of the

The most eminent minds in Paris frequently met in Chopin's
saloon. Not in reunions of fantastic periodicity, such as the
dull imaginations of ceremonious and tiresome circles have
arranged, and which they have never succeeded in realizing in
accordance with their wishes, for enjoyment, ease, enthusiasm,
animation, never come at an hour fixed upon before hand. They can
be commanded less by artists than by other men, for they are all
more or less struck by some sacred malady whose paralyzing torpor
they must shake off, whose benumbing pain they must forget, to be
joyous and amused by those pyrotechnic fires which startle the
bewildered guests, who see from time to time a Roman candle, a
rose-colored Bengal light, a cascade whose waters are of fire, or
a terrible, yet quite innocent dragon! Gayety and the strength
necessary to be joyous, are, unfortunately things only
accidentally to be encountered among poets and artists! It is
true some of the more privileged among them have the happy gift
of surmounting internal pain, so as to bear their burden always
lightly, able to laugh with their companions over the toils of
the way, or at least always able to preserve a gentle and calm
serenity which, like a mute pledge of hope and consolation,
animates, elevates, and encourages their associates, imparting to
them, while they remain under the influence of this placid
atmosphere, a freedom of spirit which appears so much the more
vivid, the more strongly it contrasts with their habitual ennui,
their abstraction, their natural gloom, their usual indifference.

Chopin did not belong to either of the above mentioned classes;
he possessed the innate grace of a Polish welcome, by which the
host is not only bound to fulfill the common laws and duties of
hospitality, but is obliged to relinquish all thought of himself,
to devote all his powers to promote the enjoyment of his guests.
It was a pleasant thing to visit him; his visitors were always
charmed; he knew how to put them at once at ease, making them
masters of every thing, and placing every thing at their
disposal. In doing the honors of his own cabin, even the simple
laborer of Sclavic race never departs from this munificence; more
joyously eager in his welcome than the Arab in his tent, he
compensates for the splendor which may be wanting in his
reception by an adage which he never fails to repeat, and which
is also repealed by the grand seignior after the most luxurious
repasts served under gilded canopies: CZYM BOHAT, TYM RAD--which
is thus paraphrased for foreigners: "Deign graciously to pardon
all that is unworthy of you, it is all my humble riches which I
place at your feet." This formula [Footnote: All the Polish
formulas of courtesy retain the strong impress of the
hyperbolical expressions of the Eastern languages. The titles of
"very powerful and very enlightened seigniors" are still
obligatory. The Poles, in conversation, constantly name each
other Benefactor (DOBRODZIJ). The common salutation between men,
and of men to women, is PADAM DO NOG: "I fall at your feet." The
greeting of the people possesses a character of ancient solemnity
and simplicity: SLAWA BOHU: "Glory to God."] is still pronounced
with a national grace and dignity by all masters of families who
preserve the picturesque customs which distinguished the ancient
manners of Poland.

Having thus described something of the habits of hospitality
common in his country, the ease which presided over our reunions
with Chopin will be readily understood. The flow of thought, the
entire freedom from restraint, were of a character so pure that
no insipidity or bitterness ever ensued, no ill humor was ever
provoked. Though he avoided society, yet when his saloon was
invaded, the kindness of his attention was delightful; without
appearing to occupy himself with any one, he succeeded in finding
for all that which was most agreeable; neglecting none, he
extended to all the most graceful courtesy.

It was not without a struggle, without a repugnance slightly
misanthropic, that Chopin could be induced to open his doors and
piano, even to those whose friendship, as respectful as faithful,
gave them a claim to urge such a request with eagerness. Without
doubt more than one of us can still remember our first improvised
evening with him, in spite of his refusal, when he lived at
Chaussee d'Antin.

His apartment, invaded by surprise, was only lighted by some wax
candles, grouped round one of Pleyel's pianos, which he
particularly liked for their slightly veiled, yet silvery
sonorousness, and easy touch, permitting him to elicit tones
which one might think proceeded from one of those harmonicas of
which romantic Germany has preserved the monopoly, and which were
so ingeniously constructed by its ancient masters, by the union
of crystal and water.

As the corners of the room were left in obscurity, all idea of
limit was lost, so that there seemed no boundary save the
darkness of space. Some tall piece of furniture, with its white
cover, would reveal itself in the dim light; an indistinct form,
raising itself like a spectre to listen to the sounds which had
evoked it. The light, concentrated round the piano and falling on
the floor, glided on like a spreading wave until it mingled with
the broken flashes from the fire, from which orange colored
plumes rose and fell, like fitful gnomes, attracted there by
mystic incantations in their own tongue. A single portrait, that
of a pianist, an admiring and sympathetic friend, seemed invited
to be the constant auditor of the ebb and flow of tones, which
sighed, moaned, murmured, broke and died upon the instrument near
which it always hung. By a strange accident, the polished surface
of the mirror only reflected so as to double it for our eyes, the
beautiful oval with silky curls which so many pencils have
copied, and which the engraver has just reproduced for all who
are charmed by works of such peculiar eloquence.

Several men, of brilliant renown, were grouped in the luminous
zone immediately around the piano: Heine, the saddest of
humorists, listened with the interest of a fellow countryman to
the narrations made him by Chopin of the mysterious country which
haunted his ethereal fancy also, and of which he too had explored
the beautiful shores. At a glance, a word, a tone, Chopin and
Heine understood each other; the musician replied to the
questions murmured in his ear by the poet, giving in tones the
most surprising revelations from those unknown regions, about
that "laughing nymph" [Footnote: Heine. SALOON- CHOPIN.] of whom
he demanded news: "If she still continued to drape her silvery
veil around the flowing locks of her green hair, with a coquetry
so enticing?" Familiar with the tittle-tattle and love tales of
those distant lands he asked: "If the old marine god, with the
long white beard, still pursued this mischievous naiad with his
ridiculous love?" Fully informed, too, about all the exquisite
fairy scenes to be seen DOWN THERE--DOWN THERE, he asked "if the
roses always glowed there with a flame so triumphant? if the
trees at moonlight sang always so harmoniously?" When Chopin had
answered, and they had for a long time conversed together about
that aerial clime, they would remain in gloomy silence, seized
with that mal du pays from which Heine suffered when he compared
himself to that Dutch captain of the phantom ship, with his crew
eternally driven about upon the chill waves, and "sighing in vain
for the spices, the tulips, the hyacinths, the pipes of sea-
foam, the porcelain cups of Holland...'Amsterdam! Amsterdam! when
shall we again see Amsterdam!' they cry from on board, while the
tempest howls in the cordage, beating them forever about in their
watery hell." Heine adds: "I fully understand the passion with
which the unfortunate captain once exclaimed: 'Oh if I should
EVER again see Amsterdam! I would rather be chained forever at
the corner of one of its streets, than be forced to leave it
again!' Poor Van der Decken!"

Heine well knew what poor Van der Decken had suffered in his
terrible and eternal course upon the ocean, which had fastened
its fangs in the wood of his incorruptible vessel, and by an
invisible anchor, whose chain he could not break because it could
never be found, held it firmly linked upon the waves of its
restless bosom. He could describe to us when he chose, the hope,
the despair, the torture of the miserable beings peopling this
unfortunate ship, for he had mounted its accursed timbers, led on
and guided by the hand of some enamored Undine, who, when the
guest of her forest of coral and palace of pearl rose more
morose, more satirical, more bitter than usual, offered for the
amusement of his ill humor between the repasts, some spectacle
worthy of a lover who could create more wonders in his dreams
than her whole kingdom contained.

Heine had traveled round the poles of the earth in this
imperishable vessel; he had seen the brilliant visitor of the
long nights, the aurora borealis, mirror herself in the immense
stalactites of eternal ice, rejoicing in the play of colors
alternating with each other in the varying folds of her glowing
scarf. He had visited the tropics, where the zodiacal triangle,
with its celestial light, replaces, during the short nights, the
burning rays of an oppressive sun. He had crossed the latitudes
where life becomes pain, and advanced into those in which it is a
living death, making himself familiar, on the long way, with the
heavenly miracles in the wild path of sailors who make for no
port! Seated on a poop without a helm, his eye had ranged from
the two Bears majestically overhanging the North, to the
brilliant Southern Cross, through the blank Antarctic deserts
extending through the empty space of the heavens overhead, as
well as over the dreary waves below, where the despairing eye
finds nothing to contemplate in the sombre depths of a sky
without a star, vainly arching over a shoreless and bottomless
sea! He had long followed the glittering yet fleeting traces left
by the meteors through the blue depths of space; he had tracked
the mystic and incalculable orbits of the comets as they flash
through their wandering paths, solitary and incomprehensible,
everywhere dreaded for their ominous splendor, yet inoffensive
and harmless. He had gazed upon the shining of that distant star,
Aldebaran, which, like the glitter and sullen glow in the eye of
a vengeful enemy, glares fiercely upon our globe, without daring
to approach it. He had watched the radiant planets shedding upon
the restless eye which seeks them a consoling and friendly light,
like the weird cabala of an enigmatic yet hopeful promise.

Heine had seen all these things, under the varying appearances
which they assume in different latitudes; he had seen much more
also with which he would entertain us under strange similitudes.
He had assisted at the furious cavalcade of "Herodiade;" he had
also an entrance at the court of the king of "Aulnes" in the
gardens of the "Hesperides"; and indeed into all those places
inaccessible to mortals who have not had a fairy as godmother,
who would take upon herself the task of counterbalancing all the
evil experienced in life, by showering upon the adopted the whole
store of fairy treasures.

Upon that evening which we are now describing, Meyerbeer was
seated next to Heine;--Meyerbeer, for whom the whole catalogue of
admiring interjections has long since been exhausted! Creator of
Cyclopean harmonics as he was, he passed the time in delight when
following the detailed arabesques, which, woven in transparent
gauze, wound in filmy veils around the delicate conceptions of

Adolphe Nourrit, a noble artist, at once ascetic and passionate,
was also there. He was a sincere, almost a devout Catholic,
dreaming of the future with the fervor of the Middle Ages, who,
during the latter part of his life, refused the assistance of his
talent to any scene of merely superficial sentiment. He served
Art with a high and enthusiastic respect; he considered it, in
all its divers manifestations, only a holy tabernacle, "the
Beauty of which formed the splendor of the True." Already
undermined by a melancholy passion for the Beautiful, his brow
seemed to be turning into stone under the dominion of this
haunting feeling: a feeling always explained by the outbreak of
despair, too late for remedy from man--man, alas! so eager to
explore the secrets of the heart--so dull to divine them!

Hiller, whose talent was allied to Chopin's, and who was one of
his most intimate friends, was there also. In advance of the
great compositions which he afterwards published, of which the
first was his remarkable Oratorio, "The Destruction of
Jerusalem," he wrote some pieces for the Piano. Among these,
those known under the title of Etudes, (vigorous sketches of the
most finished design), recall those studies of foliage, in which
the landscape painter gives us an entire little poem of light and
shade, with only one tree, one branch, a single "motif," happily
and boldly handled.

In the presence of the spectres which filled the air, and whose
rustling might almost be heard, Eugene Delacroix remained
absorbed and silent. Was he considering what pallet, what
brushes, what canvas he must use, to introduce them into visible
life through his art? Did he task himself to discover canvas
woven by Arachne, brushes made from the long eyelashes of the
fairies, and a pallet covered with the vaporous tints of the
rainbow, in order to make such a sketch possible? Did he then
smile at these fancies, yet gladly yield to the impressions from
which they sprung, because great talent is always attracted by
that power in direct contrast to its own?

The aged Niemcevicz, who appeared to be the nearest to the grave
among us, listened to the "Historic Songs" which Chopin
translated into dramatic execution for this survivor of times
long past. Under the fingers of the Polish artist, again were
heard, side by side with the descriptions, so popular, of the
Polish bard, the shock of arms, the songs of conquerors, the
hymns of triumph, the complaints of illustrious prisoners, and
the wail over dead heroes. They memorized together the long
course of national glory, of victory, of kings, of queens, of
warriors; and so much life had these phantoms, that the old man,
deeming the present an illusion, believed the olden times fully

Dark and silent, apart from all others, fell the motionless
profile of Mickiewicz: the Dante of the North, he seemed always
to find "the salt of the stranger bitter, and his steps hard to

Buried in a fauteuil, with her arms resting upon a table, sat
Madame Sand, curiously attentive, gracefully subdued. Endowed
with that rare faculty only given to a few elect, of recognizing
the Beautiful under whatever form of nature or of art it may
assume, she listened with the whole force of her ardent genius.
The faculty of instantaneously recognizing Beauty may perhaps be
the "second sight," of which all nations have acknowledged the
existence in highly gifted women. It is a kind of magical gaze
which causes the bark, the mask, the gross envelope of form, to
fall off; so that the invisible essence, the soul which is
incarnated within, may be clearly contemplated; so that the ideal
which the poet or artist may have vivified under the torrent of
notes, the passionate veil of coloring, the cold chiseling of
marble, or the mysterious rhythms of strophes, may be fully
discerned. This faculty is much rarer than is generally supposed.
It is usually felt but vaguely, yet--in its highest
manifestations, it reveals itself as a "divining oracle," knowing
the Past and prophesying the Future. It is a power which exempts
the blessed organization which it illumes, from the bearing of
the heavy burden of technicalities, with which the merely
scientific drag on toward that mystic region of inner life, which
the gifted attain with a single bound. It is a faculty which
springs less from an acquaintance with the sciences, than from a
familiarity with nature.

The fascination and value of a country life consist in the long
tete-a-tete with nature. The words of revelation hidden under the
infinite harmonies of form, of sounds, of lights and shadows, of
tones and warblings, of terror and delight, may best be caught in
these long solitary interviews. Such infinite variety may appear
crushing or distracting on a first view, but if faced with a
courage that no mystery can appal, if sounded with a resolution
that no length of time can abate, may give the clue to analogies,
conformities, relations between our senses and our sentiments,
and aid us in tracing the hidden links which bind apparent
dissimilarities, identical oppositions and equivalent antitheses,
and teach us the secrets of the chasms separating with narrow but
impassable space, that which is destined to approach forever, yet
never mingle; to resemble ever, yet never blend. To have awakened
early, as did Madame Sand, to the dim whispering with which
nature initiates her chosen to her mystic rites, is a necessary
appanage of the poet. To have learned from her to penetrate the
dreams of man when he, in his turn, creates, and uses in his
works the tones, the warblings, the terrors, the delights,
requires a still more subtle power; a power which Madame Sand
possesses by a double right, by the intuitions of her heart, and
the vigor of her genius. After having named Madame Sand, whose
energetic personality and electric genius inspired the frail and
delicate organization of Chopin with an intensity of admiration
which consumed him, as a wine too spirituous shatters the fragile
vase; we cannot now call up other names from the dim limbus of
the past, in which so many indistinct images, such doubtful
sympathies, such indefinite projects and uncertain beliefs, are
forever surging and hurtling. Perhaps there is no one among us,
who, in looking through the long vista, would not meet the ghost
of some feeling whose shadowy form he would find impossible to
pass! Among the varied interests, the burning desires, the
restless tendencies surging through the epoch in which so many
high hearts and brilliant intellects were fortuitously thrown
together, how few of them, alas! possessed sufficient vitality to
enable them to resist the numberless causes of death, surrounding
every idea, every feeling, as well as every individual life, from
the cradle to the grave! Even during the moments of the troubled
existence of the emotions now past, how many of them escaped that
saddest of all human judgments: "Happy, oh, happy were it dead!
Far happier had it never been born!" Among the varied feelings
with which so many noble hearts throbbed high, were there indeed
many which never incurred this fearful malediction? Like the
suicide lover in Mickiewicz's poem, who returns to life in the
land of the Dead only to renew the dreadful suffering of his
earth life, perhaps among all the emotions then so vividly felt
there is not a single one which, could it again live, would
reappear without the disfigurements, the brandings, the bruises,
the mutilations, which were inflicted on its early beauty, which
so deeply sullied its primal innocence! And if we should persist
in recalling these melancholy ghosts of dead thoughts and buried
feelings from the heavy folds of the shroud, would they not
actually appal us, because so few of them possessed sufficient
purity and celestial radiance to redeem them from the shame of
being utterly disowned, entirely repudiated, by those whose bliss
or torment they formed during the passionate hours of their
absolute rule? In very pity ask us not to call from the Dead,
ghosts whose resurrection would be so painful! Who could bear the
sepulchral ghastly array? Who would willingly call them from
their sheeted sleep? If our ideas, thoughts, and feelings were
indeed to be suddenly aroused from the unquiet grave in which
they lie buried, and an account demanded from them of the good
and evil which they have severally produced in the hearts in
which they found so generous an asylum, and which they have
confused, overwhelmed, illumined, devastated, ruined, broken, as
chance or destiny willed,--who could hope to endure the replies
that would be made to questions so searching?

If among the group of which we have spoken, every member of which
has won the attention of many human souls, and must, in
consequence, bear in his conscience the sharp sting of multiplied
responsibilities, there should be found ONE who has not suffered
aught, that was pure in the natural attraction which bound them
together in this chain of glittering links, to fall into dull
forgetfulness; one who allowed no breath of the fermentation
lingering even around the most delicate perfumes, to embitter his
memories; one who has transfigured and left to the immortality of
art, only the unblemished inheritance of all that was noblest in
their enthusiasm, all that was purest and most lasting of their
joys; let us bow before him as before one of the Elect! Let us
regard him as one of those whom the belief of the people marks as
"Good Genii!" The attribution of superior power to beings
believed to be beneficent to man, has received a sublime
conformation from a great Italian poet, who defines genius as a
"stronger impress of Divinity!" Let us bow before all who are
marked with this mystic seal; but let us venerate with the
deepest, truest tenderness those who have only used their
wondrous supremacy to give life and expression to the highest and
most exquisite feelings! and among the pure and beneficent genii
of earth must indubitably be ranked the artist Chopin!


The Lives of Artists--Pure Fame of Chopin--Reserve--Classic and
Romantic Art-Language of the Sclaves--Chopin's Love of Home

A natural curiosity is generally felt to know something of the
lives of men who have consecrated their genius to embellish noble
feelings through works of art, through which they shine like
brilliant meteors in the eyes of the surprised and delighted
crowd. The admiration and sympathy awakened by the compositions
of such men, attach immediately to their own names, which are at
once elevated as symbols of nobility and greatness, because the
world is loath to believe that those who can express high
sentiments with force, can themselves feel ignobly. The objects
of this benevolent prejudice, this favorable presumption, are
expected to justify such suppositions by the high course of life
which they are required to lead. When it is seen that the poet
feels with such exquisite delicacy all that which it is so sweet
to inspire; that he divines with such rapid intuition all that
pride, timidity, or weariness struggles to hide; that he can
paint love as youth dreams it, but as riper years despair to
realize it; when such sublime situations seem to be ruled by his
genius, which raises itself so calmly above the calamities of
human destiny, always finding the leading threads by which the
most complicated knots in the tangled skein of life may be
proudly and victoriously unloosed; when the secret modulations of
the most exquisite tenderness, the most heroic courage, the most
sublime simplicity, are known to be subject to his command,--it
is most natural that the inquiry should be made if this wondrous
divination springs from a sincere faith in the reality of the
noble feelings portrayed, or whether its source is to be found in
an acute perception of the intellect, an abstract comprehension
of the logical reason.

The question in what the life led by men so enamored of beauty
differs from that of the common multitude, is then earnestly
asked. This high poetic disdain,--how did it comport itself when
struggling with material interests? These ineffable emotions of
ethereal love,--how were they guarded from the bitterness of
petty cares, from that rapidly growing and corroding mould which
usually stifles or poisons them? How many of such feelings were
preserved from that subtle evaporation which robs them of their
perfume, that gradually increasing inconstancy which lulls us
until we forget to call the dying emotions to account? Those who
felt such holy indignation,--were they indeed always just? Those
who exalted integrity,--were they always equitable? Those who
sung of honor,--did they never stoop? Those who so admired
fortitude,--have they never compromised with their own weakness?

A deep interest is also felt in ascertaining how those to whom
the task of sustaining our faith in the nobler sentiments through
art has been intrusted, have conducted themselves in external
affairs, where pecuniary gain is only to be acquired at the
expense of delicacy, loyalty, or honor. Many assert that the
nobler feelings exist only in the works of art. When some
unfortunate occurrence seems to give a deplorable foundation to
the words of such mockers, with what avidity they name the most
exquisite conceptions of the poet, "vain phantoms!" How they
plume themselves upon their own wisdom in having advocated the
politic doctrine of an astute, yet honeyed hypocrisy; how they
delight to speak of the perpetual contradiction between words and
deeds!....With what cruel joy they detail such occurrences, and
cite such examples in the presence of those unsteady restless
souls, who are incited by their youthful aspirations and by the
depression and utter loss of happy confidence which such a
conviction would entail upon them, to struggle against a distrust
so blighting! When such wavering spirits are engaged in the
bitter combat with the harsh alternatives of life, or tempted at
every turn by its insinuating seductions, what a profound
discouragement seizes upon them when they are induced to believe
that the hearts devoted to the most sublime thoughts, the most
deeply initiated in the most delicate susceptibilities, the most
charmed by the beauty of innocence, have denied, by their acts,
the sincerity of their worship for the noble themes which they
have sung as poets! With what agonizing doubts are they not
filled by such flagrant contradictions! How much is their anguish
increased by the jeering mockery of those who repeat: "Poetry is
only that which might have been"--and who delight in blaspheming
it by their guilty negations! Whatever may be the human short-
comings of the gifted, believe the truths they sing! Poetry is
more than the gigantic shadow of our own imagination,
immeasurably increased, and projected upon the flying plane of
the Impossible. POETRY and REALITY are not two incompatible
elements, destined to move on together without commingling.
Goethe himself confesses this. In speaking of a contemporary
writer he says: "that having lived to create poems, he had also
made his life a Poem." (Er lebte dichtend, und dichtete lebend.)
Goethe was himself too true a poet not to know that Poetry only
is, because its eternal Reality throbs in the noble impulses of
the human heart.

We have once before remarked that "genius imposes its own
obligations." [Footnote: Upon Paganini, after his death.] If the
examples of cold austerity and of rigid disinterestedness are
sufficient to awaken the admiration of calm and reflective
natures, whence shall more passionate and mobile organizations,
to whom the dullness of mediocrity is insipid, who naturally seek
honor or pleasure, and who are willing to purchase the object of
their desires at any price--form their models? Such temperaments
easily free themselves from the authority of their seniors. They
do not admit their competency to decide. They accuse them of
wishing to use the world only for the profit of their own dead
passions, of striving to turn all to their own advantage, of
pronouncing upon the effects of causes which they do not
understand, of desiring to promulgate laws in spheres to which
nature has denied them entrance. They will not receive answers
from their lips, but turn to others to resolve their doubts; they
question those who have drunk deeply from the boiling springs of
grief, bursting from the riven clefts in the steep cliffs upon
the top of which alone the soul seeks rest and light. They pass
in silence by the still cold gravity of those who practice the
good, without enthusiasm for the beautiful. What leisure has
ardent youth to interpret their gravity, to resolve their chill
problems? The throbbings of its impetuous heart are too rapid to
allow it to investigate the hidden sufferings, the mystic
combats, the solitary struggles, which may be detected even in
the calm eye of the man who practices only the good. Souls in
continual agitation seldom interpret aright the calm simplicity
of the just, or the heroic smiles of the stoic. For them
enthusiasm and emotion are necessities. A bold image persuades
them, a metaphor leads them, tears convince them, they prefer the
conclusions of impulse, of intuition, to the fatigue of logical
argument. Thus they turn with an eager curiosity to the poets and
artists who have moved them by their images, allured them by
their metaphors, excited them by their enthusiasm. They demand
from them the explanation, the purpose of this enthusiasm, the
secret of this beauty!

When distracted by heart-rending events, when tortured by intense
suffering, when feeling and enthusiasm seem to be but a heavy and
cumbersome load which may upset the life-boat if not thrown
overboard into the abyss of forgetfulness; who, when menaced with
utter shipwreck after a long struggle with peril, has not evoked
the glorious shades of those who have conquered, whose thoughts
glow with noble ardor, to inquire from them how far their
aspirations were sincere, how long they preserved their vitality
and truth? Who has not exerted an ingenious discernment to
ascertain how much of the generous feeling depicted was only for
mental amusement, a mere speculation; how much had really become
incorporated with the habitual acts of life? Detraction is never
idle in such cases; it seizes eagerly upon the foibles, the
neglect, the faults of those who have been degraded by any
weakness: alas, it omits nothing! It chases its prey, it
accumulates facts only to distort them, it arrogates to itself
the right of despising the inspiration to which it will grant no
authority or aim but to furnish amusement, denying it any claim
to guide our actions, our resolutions, our refusal, our consent!
Detraction knows well how to winnow history! Casting aside all
the good grain, it carefully gathers all the tares, to scatter
the black seed over the brilliant pages in which the purest
desires of the heart, the noblest dreams of the imagination are
found; and with the irony of assumed victory, demands what the
grain is worth which only germinates dearth and famine? Of what
value the vain words, which only nourish sterile feelings? Of
what use are excursions into realms in which no real fruit can
ever be gathered? of what possible importance are emotions and
enthusiasm, which always end in calculations of interest,
covering only with brilliant veil the covert struggles of egotism
and venal self-interest?

With how much arrogant derision men given to such detraction,
contrast the noble thoughts of the poet, with his unworthy acts!
The high compositions of the artist, with his guilty frivolity!
What a haughty superiority they assume over the laborious merit
of the men of guileless honesty, whom they look upon as
crustacea, sheltered from temptation by the immobility of weak
organizations, as well as over the pride of those, who, believing
themselves superior to such temptations, do not, they assert,
succeed even as well as themselves in repudiating the pursuit of
material well being, the gratification of vanity, or the pleasure
of immediate enjoyment! What an easy triumph they win over the
hesitation, the doubt, the repugnance of those who would fain
cling to a belief in the possibility of the union of vivid
feelings, passionate impressions, intellectual gifts, imaginative
temperaments, with high integrity, pure lives, and courses of
conduct in perfect harmony with poetic ideals!

It is therefore impossible not to feel the deepest sadness when
we meet with any fact which shows us the poet disobedient to the
inspiration of the Muses, those guardian angels of the man of
genius, who would willingly teach him to make of his own life the
most beautiful of poems. What disastrous doubts in the minds of
others, what profound discouragements, what melancholy apostasies
are induced by the faltering steps of the man of genius! And yet
it would be profanity to confound his errors in the same
anathema, hurled against the base vices of meanness, the
shameless effrontery of low crime! It would be sacrilege! If the
acts of the poet have sometimes denied the spirit of his song,
have not his songs still more powerfully denied his acts? May not
the limited influence of his private actions have been far more
than counterbalanced by the germs of creative virtues, scattered
profusely through his eloquent writings? Evil is contagious, but
good is truly fruitful! The poet, even while forcing his inner
convictions to give way to his personal interest, still
acknowledges and ennobles the sentiments which condemn himself;
such sentiments attain a far wider influence through his works
than can be exerted by his individual acts. Are not the number of
spirits which have been calmed, consoled, edified, through these
works, far greater than the number of those who have been injured
by the errors of his private life? Art is far more powerful than
the artist. His creations have a life independent of his
vacillating will; for they are revelations of the "immutable
beauty!" More durable than himself, they pass on from generation
to generation; let us hope that they may, through the blessings
of their widely spread influence, contain a virtual power of
redemption for the frequent errors of their gifted authors. If it
be indeed true that many of those who have immortalized their
sensibility and their aspirations, by robing them in the garb of
surpassing eloquence, have, nevertheless, stifled these high
aspirations, abused these quick sensibilities,--how many have
they not confirmed, strengthened and encouraged to pursue a noble
course, through the works created by their genius! A generous
indulgence towards them would be but justice! It is hard to be
forced to claim simple justice for them; unpleasant to be
constrained to defend those whom we wish to be admired, to excuse
those whom we wish to see venerated!

With what exultant feelings of just pride may the friend and
artist remember a career in which there are no jarring
dissonances; no contradictions, for which he is forced to claim
indulgence; no errors, whose source must be found in palliation
of their existence; no extreme, to be accounted for as the
consequence of "excess of cause." How sweet it is to be able to
name one who has fully proved that it is not only apathetic
beings whom no fascination can attract, no illusion betray, who
are able to limit themselves within the strict routine of honored
and honorable laws, who may justly claim that elevation of soul,
which no reverse subdues, and which is never found in
contradiction with its better self! Doubly dear and doubly
honored must the memory of Chopin, in this respect, ever remain!
Dear to the friends and artists who have known him in his
lifetime, dear to the unknown friends who shall learn to love him
through his poetic song, as well as to the artists who, in
succeeding him, shall find their glory in being worthy of him!

The character of Chopin, in none of its numerous folds, concealed
a single movement, a single impulse, which was not dictated by
the nicest sense of honor, the most delicate appreciation of
affection. Yet no nature was ever more formed to justify
eccentricity, whims, and abrupt caprices. His imagination was
ardent, his feelings almost violent, his physical organization
weak, irritable and sickly. Who can measure the amount of
suffering arising from such contrasts? It must have been bitter,
but he never allowed it to be seen! He kept the secret of his
torments, he veiled them from all eyes under the impenetrable
serenity of a haughty resignation.

The delicacy of his heart and constitution imposed upon him the
woman's torture, that of enduring agonies never to be confessed,
thus giving to his fate some of the darker hues of feminine
destiny. Excluded, by the infirm state of his health, from the
exciting arena of ordinary activity, without any taste for the
useless buzzing, in which a few bees, joined with many wasps,
expend their superfluous strength, he built apart from all noisy
and frequented routes a secluded cell for himself. Neither
adventures, embarrassments, nor episodes, mark his life, which he
succeeded in simplifying, although surrounded by circumstances
which rendered such a result difficult of attainment. His own
feelings, his own impressions, were his events; more important in
his eyes than the chances and changes of external life. He
constantly gave lessons with regularity and assiduity; domestic
and daily tasks, they were given conscientiously and
satisfactorily. As the devout in prayer, so he poured out his
soul in his compositions, expressing in them those passions of
the heart, those unexpressed sorrows, to which the pious give
vent in their communion with their Maker. What they never say
except upon their knees, he said in his palpitating compositions;
uttering in the language of the tones those mysteries of passion
and of grief which man has been permitted to understand without
words, because there are no words adequate for their expression.

The care taken by Chopin to avoid the zig-zags of life, to
eliminate from it all that was useless, to prevent its crumbling
into masses without form, has deprived his own course of
incident. The vague lines and indications surrounding his figure
like misty clouds, disappear under the touch which would strive
to follow or trace their outlines. He takes part in no actions,
no drama, no entanglements, no denouements. He exercised a
decisive influence upon no human being. His will never encroached
upon the desires of another, he never constrained any other
spirit, or crashed it under the domination of his own, He never
tyrannized over another heart, he never placed a conquering hand
upon the destiny of another being. He sought nothing; he would
have scorned to have made any demands. Like Tasso, he might say:

Brama assai, poco spera, e nulla chiede. In compensation, he
escaped from all ties; from the affections which might have
influenced him, or led him into more tumultuous spheres. Ready to
yield all, he never gave himself. Perhaps he knew what exclusive
devotion, what love without limit he was worthy of inspiring, of
understanding, of sharing! Like other ardent and ambitions
natures, he may have thought if love and friendship are not all--
they are nothing! Perhaps it would have been more painful for him
to have accepted a part, any thing less than all, than to have
relinquished all, and thus to have remained at least faithful to
his impossible Ideal! If these things have been so or not, none
ever knew, for he rarely spoke of love or friendship. He was not
exacting, like those whose high claims and just demands exceed
all that we possess to offer them. The most intimate of his
acquaintances never penetrated to that secluded fortress in which
the soul, absent from his common life, dwelt; a fortress which he
so well succeeded in concealing, that its very existence was
scarcely suspected.

In his relations and intercourse with others, he always seemed
occupied in what interested them; he was cautions not to lead
them from the circle of their own personality, lest they should
intrude into his. If he gave up but little of his time to others,
at least of that which he did relinquish, he reserved none for
himself. No one ever asked him to give an account of his dreams,
his wishes, or his hopes. No one seemed to wish to know what he
sighed for, what he might have conquered, if his white and
tapering fingers could have linked the brazen chords of life to
the golden ones of his enchanted lyre! No one had leisure to
think of this in his presence. His conversation was rarely upon
subjects of any deep interest. He glided lightly over all, and as
he gave but little of his time, it was easily filled with the
details of the day. He was careful never to allow himself to
wander into digressions of which he himself might become the
subject. His individuality rarely excited the investigations of
curiosity, or awakened vivid scrutiny. He pleased too much to
excite much reflection. The ensemble of his person was
harmonious, and called for no especial commentary. His blue eye
was more spiritual than dreamy, his bland smile never writhed
into bitterness. The transparent delicacy of his complexion
pleased the eye, his fair hair was soft and silky, his nose
slightly aquiline, his bearing so distinguished, and his manners
stamped with so much high breeding, that involuntarily he was
always treated EN PRINCE. His gestures were many and graceful;
the tone of his voice was veiled, often stifled; his stature was
low, and his limbs slight. He constantly reminded us of a
convolvulus balancing its heaven-colored cup upon an incredibly
slight stem, the tissue of which is so like vapor that the
slightest contact wounds and tears the misty corolla.

His manners in society possessed that serenity of mood which
distinguishes those whom no ennui annoys, because they expect no
interest. He was generally gay, his caustic spirit caught the
ridiculous rapidly and far below the surface at which it usually
strikes the eye. He displayed a rich vein of drollery in
pantomime. He often amused himself by reproducing the musical
formulas and peculiar tricks of certain virtuosi, in the most
burlesque and comic improvisations, in imitating their gestures,
their movements, in counterfeiting their faces with a talent
which instantaneously depicted their whole personality. His own
features would then become scarcely recognizable, he could force
the strangest metamorphoses upon them, but while mimicking the
ugly and grotesque, he never lost his own native grace. Grimace
was never carried far enough to disfigure him; his gayety was so
much the more piquant because he always restrained it within the
limits of perfect good taste, holding at a suspicious distance
all that could wound the most fastidious delicacy. He never made
use of an inelegant word, even in the moments of the most entire
familiarity; an improper merriment, a coarse jest would have been
shocking to him.

Through a strict exclusion of all subjects relating to himself
from conversation, through a constant reserve with regard to his
own feelings, he always succeeded in leaving a happy impression
behind him. People in general like those who charm them without
causing them to fear that they will be called upon to render
aught in return for the amusement given, or that the pleasurable
excitement of gayety will be followed by the sadness of
melancholy confidences the sight of mournful faces, or the
inevitable reactions which occur in susceptible natures of which
we may say: Ubi mel, ibi fel. People generally like to keep such
"susceptible natures" at a distance; they dislike to be brought
into contact with their melancholy moods, though they do not
refuse a kind of respect to the mournful feelings caused by their
subtle reactions; indeed such changes possess for them the
attraction of the unknown and they are as ready to take delight
in the description of such changing caprices, as they are to
avoid their reality. The presence of Chopin was always feted. He
interested himself so vividly in all that was not himself, that
his own personality remained intact, unapproached and
unapproachable, under the polished and glassy surface upon which
it was impossible to gain footing.

On some occasions, although very rarely, we have seen him deeply
agitated. We have seen him grow so pale and wan, that his
appearance was actually corpse-like. But even in moments of the
most intense emotion, he remained concentrated within himself. A
single instant for self-recovery always enabled him to veil the
secret of his first impression. However full of spontaneity his
bearing afterwards might seem to be, it was instantaneously the
effect of reflection, of a will which governed the strange
conflict of emotional and moral energy with conscious physical
debility; a conflict whose strange contrasts were forever warring
vividly within. The dominion exercised over the natural violence
of his character reminds us of the melancholy force of those
beings who seek their strength in isolation and entire self-
control, conscious of the uselessness of their vivid indignation
and vexation, and too jealous of the mysteries of their passions
to betray them gratuitously.

He could pardon in the most noble manner. No rancor remained in
his heart toward those who had wounded him, though such wounds
penetrated deeply in his soul, and fermented there in vague pain
and internal suffering, so that long after the exciting cause had
been effaced from his memory, he still experienced the secret
torture. By dint of constant effort, in spite of his acute and
tormenting sensibilities, he subjected his feelings to the rule
rather of what ought to be, than of what is; thus he was grateful
for services proceeding rather from good intentions than from a
knowledge of what would have been agreeable to him; from
friendship which wounded him, because not aware of his acute but
concealed susceptibility. Nevertheless the wounds caused by such
awkward miscomprehension are, of all others, the most difficult
for nervous temperaments to bear. Condemned to repress their
vexation, such natures are excited by degrees to a state of
constantly gnawing irritability, which they can never attribute
to the true cause. It would be a gross mistake to imagine that
this irritation existed without provocation. But as a dereliction
from what appeared to him to be the most honorable course of
conduct was a temptation which he was never called upon to
resist, because in all probability it never presented itself to
him; so he never, in the presence of the more vigorous and
therefore more brusque and positive individualities than his own,
unveiled the shudder, if repulsion be too strong a term, caused
by their contact or association.

The reserve which marked his intercourse with others, extended to
all subjects to which the fanaticism of opinion can attach. His
own sentiments could only be estimated by that which he did not
do in the narrow limits of his activity. His patriotism was
revealed in the course taken by his genius, in the choice of his
friends, in the preferences given to his pupils, and in the
frequent and great services which he rendered to his compatriots;
but we cannot remember that he took any pleasure in the
expression of this feeling. If he sometimes entered upon the
topic of politics, so vividly attacked, so warmly defended, so
frequently discussed in Prance, it was rather to point out what
he deemed dangerous or erroneous in the opinions advanced by
others than to win attention for his own. In constant connection
with some of the most brilliant politicians of the day, he knew
how to limit the relations between them to a personal attachment
entirely independent of political interests.

Democracy presented to his view an agglomeration of elements too
heterogeneous, too restless, wielding too much savage power, to
win his sympathies. The entrance of social and political
questions into the arena of popular discussion was compared, more
than twenty years ago, to a new and bold incursion of barbarians.
Chopin was peculiarly and painfully struck by the terror which
this comparison awakened. He despaired of obtaining the safety of
Rome from these modern Attilas, he feared the destruction of art,
its monuments, its refinements, its civilization; in a word, he
dreaded the loss of the elegant, cultivated if somewhat indolent
ease described by Horace. Would the graceful elegancies of life,
the high culture of the arts, indeed be safe in the rude and
devastating hands of the new barbarians? He followed at a
distance the progress of events, and an acuteness of perception,
which he would scarcely have been supposed to possess, often
enabled him to predict occurrences which were not anticipated
even by the best informed. But though such observations escaped
him, he never developed them. His concise remarks attracted no
attention until time proved their truth. His good sense, full of
acuteness, had early persuaded him of the perfect vacuity of the
greater part of political orations, of theological discussions,
of philosophic digressions. He began early to practice the
favorite maxim of a man of great distinction, whom we have often
heard repeat a remark dictated by the misanthropic wisdom of age,
which was then startling to our inexperienced impetuosity, but
which has since frequently struck us by its melancholy truth:
"You will be persuaded one day as I am," (said the Marquis de
Noailles to the young people whom he honored with his attention,
and who were becoming heated in some naive discussions of
differing opinions,) 'that it is scarcely possible to talk about
any thing to any body." (Qu'il n'y a guere moyen de causer de
quoi que ce soit, avec qui que ce soit.)

Sincerely religious, and attached to Catholicity, Chopin never
touched upon this subject, but held his faith without attracting
attention to it. One might have been acquainted with him for a
long time, without knowing exactly what his religious opinion
were. Perhaps to console his inactive hand an reconcile it with
his lute, he persuaded himself to think: Il mondo va da se. We
have frequently watched him during the progress of long,
animated, and stormy discussions, in which he would take no part.
In the excitement of the debate he was forgotten by the speakers,
but we have often neglected to follow the chain of their
reasoning, to fix our attention upon the features of Chopin,
which were almost imperceptibly contracted when subjects touching
upon the most important conditions of our existence were
discussed with such eagerness and ardor, that it might have been
thought our fates were to be instantly decided by the result of
the debate. At such times, he appeared to us like a passenger on
board of a vessel, driven and tossed by tempests upon the
stormful waves, thinking of his distant country, watching the
horizon, the stars, the manoeuvres of the sailors, counting their
fatal mistakes, without possessing in himself sufficient force to
seize a rope, or the energy requisite to haul in a fluttering

On one single subject he relinquished his premeditated silence,
his cherished neutrality. In the cause of art he broke through
his reserve, he never abdicated upon this topic the explicit
enunciation of his opinions. He applied himself with great
perseverance to extend the limits of his influence upon this
subject. It was a tacit confession that he considered himself
legitimately possessed of the authority of a great artist. In
questions which he dignified by his competence, he never left any
doubt with regard to the nature of his opinions. During several
years his appeals were full of impassioned ardor, but later, the
triumph of his opinions having diminished the interest of his
role, he sought no further occasion to place himself as leader,
as the bearer of any banner. In the only occurrence in which he
took part in the conflict of parties, he gave proof of opinions,
absolute, tenacious, and inflexible, as those which rarely come
to the light usually are.

Shortly after his arrival in Paris, in 1832, a new school was
formed both in literature and music, and youthful talent
appeared, which shook off with eclat the yoke of ancient
formulas. The scarcely lulled political effervescence of the
first years of the revolution of July, passed into questions upon
art and letters, which attracted the attention and interest of
all minds. ROMANTICISM was the order of the day; they fought with
obstinacy for and against it. What truce could there be between
those who would not admit the possibility of writing in any other
than the already established manner, and those who thought that
the artist should be allowed to choose such forms as he deemed
best suited for the expression of his ideas; that the rule of
form should be found in the agreement of the chosen form with the
sentiments to be expressed, every different shade of feeling
requiring of course a different mode of expression? The former
believed in the existence of a permanent form, whose perfection
represented absolute Beauty. But in admitting that the great
masters had attained the highest limits in art, had reached
supreme perfection, they left to the artists who succeeded them
no other glory than the hope of approaching these models, more or
less closely, by imitation, thus frustrating all hope of ever
equalling them, because the perfecting of any process can never
rival the merit of its invention. The latter denied that the
immaterial Beautiful could have a fixed and absolute form. The
different forms which had appeared in the history of art, seemed
to them like tents spread in the interminable route of the ideal;
mere momentary halting places which genius attains from epoch to
epoch, and beyond which the inheritors of the past should strive
to advance. The former wished to restrict the creations of times
and natures the most dissimilar, within the limits of the same
symmetrical frame; the latter claimed for all writers the liberty
of creating their own mode, accepting no other rules than those
which result from the direct relation of sentiment and form,
exacting only that the form should be adequate to the expression
of the sentiment. However admirable the existing models might be,
they did not appear to them to have exhausted all the range of
sentiments upon which art might seize, or all the forms which it
might advantageously use. Not contented with the mere excellence
of form, they sought it so far only as its perfection is
indispensable for the complete revelation of the idea, for they
were not ignorant that the sentiment is maimed if the form remain
imperfect, any imperfection in it, like an opaque veil,
intercepting the raying of the pure idea. Thus they elevated what
had otherwise been the mere work of the trade, into the sphere of
poetic inspiration. They enjoined upon genius and patience the
task of inventing a form which would satisfy the exactions of the
inspiration. They reproached their adversaries with attempting to
reduce inspiration to the bed of Procrustes, because they refused
to admit that there are sentiments which cannot be expressed in
forms which have been determined upon beforehand, and of thus
robbing art, in advance even of their creation, of all works
which might attempt the introduction of newly awakened ideas,
newly clad in new forms; forms and ideas both naturally arising
from the naturally progressive development of the human spirit,
the improvement of the instruments, and the consequent increase
of the material resources of art.

Those who saw the flames of Genius devour the old worm-eaten
crumbling skeletons, attached themselves to the musical school of
which the most gifted, the most brilliant, the most daring
representative, was Berlioz. Chopin joined this school. He
persisted most strenuously in freeing himself from the servile
formulas of conventional style, while he earnestly repudiated the
charlatanism which sought to replace the old abuses only by the
introduction of new ones.

During the years which this campaign of Romanticism lasted, in
which some of the trial blows were master-strokes, Chopin
remained invariable in his predilections, as well as in his
repulsions. He did not admit the least compromise with those who,
in his opinion, did not sufficiently represent progress, and who,
in their refusal to relinquish the desire of displaying art for
the profit of the trade, in their pursuit of transitory effects,
of success won only from the astonishment of the audience, gave
no proof of sincere devotion to progress. He broke the ties which
he had contracted with respect when he felt restricted by them,
or bound too closely to the shore by cordage which he knew to be
decayed. He obstinately refused, on the other hand, to form ties
with the young artists whose success, which he deemed
exaggerated, elevated a certain kind of merit too highly. He
never gave the least praise to any thing which he did not believe
to be a real conquest for art, or which did not evince a serious
conception of the task of an artist. He did not wish to be lauded
by any party, to be aided by the manoeuvres of any faction, or by
the concessions made by any schools in the persons of their
chiefs. In the midst of jealousies, encroachments, forfeitures,
and invasions of the different branches of art, negotiations,
treaties, and contracts have been introduced, like the means and
appliances of diplomacy, with all the artifices inseparable from
such a course. In refusing the support of any accessory aid for
his productions, he proved that he confidently believed that
their own beauty would ensure their appreciation, and that he did
not struggle to facilitate their immediate reception.

He supported our struggles, at that time so full of uncertainty,
when we met more sages shaking their heads, than glorious
adversaries, with his calm and unalterable conviction. He aided
us with opinions so fixed that neither weariness nor artifice
could shake them, with a rare immutability of will, and that
efficacious assistance which the creation of meritorious works
always brings to a struggling cause, when it can claim them as
its own. He mingled so many charms, so much moderation, so much
knowledge with his daring innovations, that the prompt admiration
he inspired fully justified the confidence he placed in his own
genius. The solid studies which he had made, the reflective
habits of his youth, the worship for classic models in which he
had been educated, preserved him from losing his strength in
blind gropings, in doubtful triumphs, as has happened to more
than one partisan of the new ideas. His studious patience in the
elaboration of his works sheltered him from the critics, who
envenomed the dissensions by seizing upon those easy and
insignificant victories due to omissions, and the negligence of
inadvertence. Early trained to the exactions and restrictions of
rules, having produced compositions filled with beauty when
subjected to all their fetters, he never shook them off without
an appropriate cause and after due reflection. In virtue of his
principles he always progressed, but without being led into
exaggeration or lured by compromise; he willingly relinquished
theoretic formulas to pursue their results. Less occupied with
the disputes of the schools and their terms, than in producing
himself the best argument, a finished work, he was fortunate
enough to avoid personal enmities and vexatious accommodations.

Chopin had that reverential worship for art which characterized
the first masters of the middle ages, but in expression and
bearing he was more simple, modern, and less ecstatic. As for
them, so art was for him, a high and holy vocation. Like them he
was proud of his election for it, and honored it with devout
piety. This feeling was revealed at the hour of his death through
an occurrence, the significance of which is more fully explained
by a knowledge of the manners prevalent in Poland. By a custom
which still exists, although it is now falling into disuse, the
Poles often chose the garments in which they wished to be buried,
and which were frequently prepared a long time in advance.
[Footnote: General K----, the author of Julie and Adolphe, a
romance imitated from the New Heloise which was much in vogue at
the time of its publication, and who was still living in Volhynia
at the date of our visit to Poland, though more than eighty years
of age, in conformity with the custom spoken of above, had caused
his coffin to be made, and for more than thirty years it had
always stood at the door of his chamber.] Their dearest wishes
were thus expressed for the last time, their inmost feelings were
thus at the hour of death betrayed. Monastic robes were
frequently chosen by worldly men, the costumes of official
charges were selected or refused as the remembrances connected
with them were glorious or painful. Chopin, who, although among
the first of contemporary artists, had given the fewest concerts,
wished, notwithstanding, to be borne to the grave in the clothes
which he had worn on such occasions. A natural and profound
feeling springing from the inexhaustible sources of art, without
doubt dictated this dying request, when having scrupulously
fulfilled the last duties of a Christian, he left all of earth
which he could not bear with him to the skies. He had linked his
love for art and his faith in it with immortality long before the
approach of death, and as he robed himself for his long sleep in
the grave, he gave, as was customary with him, by a mute symbol,
the last touching proof of the conviction he had preserved intact
during the whole course of his life. Faithful to himself, he died
adoring art in its mystic greatness, its highest revelations.

In retiring from the turmoil of society, Chopin concentrated his
cares and affections upon the circle of his own family and his
early acquaintances. Without any interruption he preserved close
relations with them; never ceasing to keep them up with the
greatest care. His sister Louise was especially dear to him, a
resemblance in the character of their minds, the bent of their
feelings, bound them closely to each other. Louise frequently
came from Warsaw to Paris to see him. She spent the last three
months of his life with the brother she loved, watching over him
with undying affection. Chopin kept up a regular correspondence
with the members of his own family, but only with them. It was
one of his peculiarities to write letters to no others; it might
almost have been thought that he had made a vow to write to no
strangers. It was curious enough to see him resort to all kinds
of expedients to escape the necessity of tracing the most
insignificant note. Many times he has traversed Paris from one
end to the other, to decline an invitation to dinner, or to give
some trivial information, rather than write a few lines which
would have spared him all this trouble and loss of time. His
handwriting was quite unknown to the greatest number of his
friends. It is said he sometimes departed from this custom in
favor of his beautiful countrywomen, some of whom possess several
of his notes written in Polish. This infraction of what seemed to
be a law with him, may be attributed to the pleasure he took in
the use of this language. He always used it with the people of
his own country, and loved to translate its most expressive
phrases. He was a good French scholar, as the Sclaves generally
are. In consequence of his French origin, the language had been
taught him with peculiar care. But he did not like it, he did not
think it sufficiently sonorous, and he deemed its genius cold.
This opinion is very prevalent among the Poles, who, although
speaking it with great facility, often better than their native
tongue, and frequently using it in their intercourse with each
other, yet complain to those who do not speak Polish of the
impossibility of rendering the thousand ethereal and shifting
modes of thought in any other idiom. In their opinion it is
sometimes dignity, sometimes grace, sometimes passion, which is
wanting in the French language. If they are asked the meaning of
a word or a phrase which they may have cited in Polish, the reply
invariably is: "Oh, that cannot be translated!" Then follow
explanations, serving as comments to the exclamation, of all the
subtleties, all the shades of meaning, all the delicacies
contained in THE NOT TO BE TRANSLATED words. We have cited some
examples which, joined to others, induce us to believe that this
language has the advantage of making images of abstract nouns,
and that in the course of its development, through the poetic
genius of the nation, it has been enabled to establish striking
and just relations between ideas by etymologies, derivations, and
synonymes. Colored reflections of light and shade are thus thrown
upon all expressions, so that they necessarily call into
vibration through the mind the correspondent tone of a third,
which modulates the thought into a major or minor mode. The
richness of the language always permits the choice of the mode,
but this very richness may become a difficulty. It is not
impossible that the general use of foreign tongues in Poland may
be attributed to indolence of mind or want of application; may be
traced to a desire to escape the necessary labor of acquiring
that mastery of diction indispensable in a language so full of
sudden depths, of laconic energy, that it is very difficult, if
not quite impossible, to support in it the commonplace. The vague
agreements of badly defined ideas cannot be compressed in the
nervous strength of its grammatical forms; the thought, if it be
really low, cannot be elevated from its debasement or poverty; if
it really soar above the commonplace, it requires a rare
precision of terms not to appear uncouth or fantastic. In
consequence of this, in proportion to the works published, the
Polish literature should be able to show a greater number of
chefs-d'oeuvre than can be done in any other language. He who
ventures to use this tongue, must feel himself already master.

[Footnote: It cannot be reproached with a want of harmony or
musical charm. The harshness of a language does not always and
absolutely depend upon the number of consonants, but rather upon
the manner of their association. We might even assert, that in
consequence of the absence of well-determined and strongly marked
sounds, some languages have a dull and cold coloring. It is the
frequent repetition of certain consonants which gives shadow,
rhythm, and vigor to a tongue; the vowels imparting only a kind
of light clear hue, which requires to be brought out by deeper
shades. It is the sharp, uncouth, or unharmonious clashing of
heterogeneous consonants which strikes the ear painfully. It is
true the Sclavic languages make use of many consonants, but their
connection is generally sonorous, sometimes pleasant to the ear,
and scarcely ever entirely discordant, even when the combinations
are more striking than agreeable. The quality of the sounds is
rich, full, and varied. They are not straitened and contracted as
if produced in a narrow medium, but extending through a
considerable register, range through a variety of intonations.
The letter L, almost impossible for those to pronounce, who have
not acquired the pronunciation in their infancy, has nothing
harsh in its sound. The ear receives from it an impression
similar to that which is made upon the fingers by the touch of a
thick woolen velvet, rough, but at the same time, yielding. The
union of jarring consonants being rare, and the assonances easily
multiplied, the same comparison might be employed to the ensemble
of the effect produced by these idioms upon foreigners. Many
words occur in Polish which imitate the sound of the thing
designated by them. The frequent repetition of CH, (h aspirated,)
of SZ, (CH in French,) of RZ, of CZ, so frightful to a profane
eye, have however nothing barbaric in their sounds, being
pronounced nearly like GEAI, and TCHE, and greatly facilitate
imitations of the sense by the sound. The word DZWIEK, (read
DZWIINQUE,) meaning sound, offers a characteristic example of
this; it would be difficult to find a word which would reproduce
more accurately the sensation which a diapason makes upon the
ear. Among the consonants accumulated in groups, producing very
different sounds, sometimes metallic, sometimes buzzing, hissing
or rumbling, many diphthongs and vowels are mingled, which
sometimes become slightly nasal, the A and E being sounded as ON
and IN, (in French,) when they are accompanied by a cedilla. In
juxtaposition with the E, (TSE,) which is pronounced with great
softness, sometimes C, (TSIE,) the accented S is almost warbled.
The Z has three sounds: the Z, (JAIS,) the Z, (ZED,) and the Z,
(ZIED). The Y forms a vowel of a muffled tone, which, as the L,
cannot be represented by any equivalent sound in French, and
which like it gives a variety of ineffable shades to the
language. These fine and light elements enable the Polish women
to assume a lingering and singing accent, which they usually
transport into other tongues. When the subjects are serious or
melancholy, after such recitatives or improvised lamentations,
they have a sort of lisping infantile manner of speaking, which
they vary by light silvery laughs, little interjectional cries,
short musical pauses upon the higher notes, from which they
descend by one knows not what chromatic scale of demi and quarter
tones to rest upon some low note; and again pursue the varied,
brusque and original modulations which astonish the ear not
accustomed to such lovely warblings, to which they sometimes give
that air of caressing irony, of cunning mockery, peculiar to the
song of some birds. They love to ZINZILYLER, and charming
changes, piquant intervals, unexpected cadences naturally find
place in this fondling prattle, making the language far more
sweet and caressing when spoken by the women, than it is in the
mouths of the men. The men indeed pride themselves upon speaking
it with elegance, impressing upon it a masculine sonorousness,
which is peculiarly adapted to the energetic movements of manly
eloquence, formerly so much cultivated in Poland. Poetry commands
such a diversity of prosodies, of rhymes, of rhythms, such an
abundance of assonances from these rich and varied materials,
that it is almost possible to follow MUSICALLY the feelings and
scenes which it depicts, not only in mere expressions in which
the sound repeats the sense, but also in long declamations. The
analogy between the Polish and Russian, has been compared to that
which obtains between the Latin and Italian. The Russian language
is indeed more mellifluous, more lingering, more caressing,
fuller of sighs than the Polish. Its cadencing is peculiarly
fitted for song. The finer poems, such as those of Zukowski and
Pouchkin, seem to contain a melody already designated in the
metre of the verses; for example, it would appear quite possible
to detach an ARIOSO or a sweet CANTIABLE from some of the stanzas
of LE CHALE NOIR, or the TALISMAN. The ancient Sclavonic, which
is the language of the Eastern Church, possesses great majesty.
More guttural than the idioms which have arisen from it, it is
severe and monotonous yet of great dignity, like the Byzantine
paintings preserved in the worship to which it is consecrated. It
has throughout the characteristics of a sacred language which has
only been used for the expression of one feeling and has never
been modulated or fashioned by profane wants.]

Chopin mingled a charming grace with all the intercourse which he
held with his relatives. Not satisfied with limiting his whole
correspondence to them alone, he profited by his stay in Paris to
procure for them the thousand agreeable surprises given by the
novelties, the bagatelles, the little gifts which charm through
their beauty, or attract as being the first seen of their kind.
He sought for all that he had reason to believe would please his
friends in Warsaw, adding constant presents to his many letters.
It was his wish that his gifts should be preserved, that through
the memories linked with them he might be often remembered by
those to whom they were sent. He attached the greatest
importance, on his side, to all the evidences of their affection
for him. To receive news or some mark of their remembrance, was
always a festival for him. He never shared this pleasure with any
one, but it was plainly visible in his conduct. He took the
greatest care of every thing that came from his distant friends,
the least of their gifts was precious to him, he never allowed
others to make use of them, indeed he was visibly uneasy if they
touched them.

Material elegance was as natural to him as mental; this was
evinced in the objects with which he surrounded himself, as well
as in the aristocratic grace of his manners. He was passionately
fond of flowers. Without aiming at the brilliant luxury with
which, at that epoch, some of the celebrities in Paris decorated
their apartments, he knew how to keep upon this point, as well as
in his style of dress, the instinctive line of perfect propriety.

Not wishing the course of his life, his thoughts, his time, to be
associated or shackled in any way by the pursuits of others, he
preferred the society of ladies, as less apt to force him into
subsequent relations. He willingly spent whole evenings in
playing blind man's buff with the young people, telling them
little stories to make them break into the silvery laughs of
youth, sweeter than the song of the nightingale. He was fond of a
life in the country, or the life of the chateau. He was ingenious
in varying its amusements, in multiplying its enjoyments. He also
loved to compose there. Many of his best works written in such
moments, perhaps embalm and hallow the memories of his happiest


Birth and Early Life of Chopin--National Artists--Chopin embodies
in himself the poetic sense of his whole nation--Opinion of

CHOPIN was born in 1810, at Zelazowa-Wola, near Warsaw. Unlike
most other children, he could not, during his childhood, remember
his own age, and the date of his birth was only fixed in his
memory by a watch given him in 1820 by Madame Catalani, which
bore the following inscription: "Madame Catalani to Frederic
Chopin, aged ten years." Perhaps the presentiments of the artist
gave to the child a foresight of his future! Nothing
extraordinary marked the course of his boyhood; his internal
development traversed but few phases, and gave but few
manifestations. As he was fragile and sickly, the attention of
his family was concentrated upon his health. Doubtless it was
from this cause that he acquired his habits of affability, his
patience under suffering, his endurance of every annoyance with a
good grace; qualities which he early acquired from his wish to
calm the constant anxiety that was felt with regard to him. No
precocity of his faculties, no precursory sign of remarkable
development, revealed, in his early years, his future superiority
of soul, mind, or capacity. The little creature was seen
suffering indeed, but always trying to smile, patient and
apparently happy and his friends were so glad that he did not
become moody or morose, that they were satisfied to cherish his
good qualities, believing that he opened his heart to them
without reserve, and gave to them all his secret thoughts.

But there are souls among us who resemble rich travelers thrown
among simple herdsmen, loading them with gifts during their
sojourn among them, truly not at all in proportion to their own
wealth, yet which are quite sufficient to astonish the poor
hosts, and to spread riches and happiness in the midst of such
simple habits. It is true that such souls give as much affection,
it may be more, than those who surround them; every body is
pleased with them, they are supposed to have been generous, when
the truth is that in comparison with their boundless wealth they
have not been liberal, and have given but little of their store
of internal treasure.

The habits in which Chopin grew up, in which he was rocked as in
a form-strengthening cradle, were those peculiar to calm,
occupied, and tranquil characters. These early examples of
simplicity, piety, and integrity, always remained the nearest and
dearest to him. Domestic virtues, religious habits, pious
charities, and rigid modesty, surrounded him from his infancy
with that pure atmosphere in which his rich imagination assumed
the velvety tenderness characterizing the plants which have never
been exposed to the dust of the beaten highways.

He commenced the study of music at an early age, being but nine
years old when he began to learn it. Shortly after he was
confided to a passionate disciple of Sebastian Bach, Ziwna, who
directed his studies during many years in accordance with the
most classic models. It is not to be supposed that when he
embraced the career of a musician, any prestige of vain glory,
any fantastic perspective, dazzled his eyes, or excited the hopes
of his family. In order to become a skillful and able master, he
studied seriously and conscientiously, without dreaming of the
greater or less amount of fame he would be able to obtain as the
fruit of his lessons and assiduous labors.

In consequence of the generous and discriminating protection
always granted by Prince Antoine Radziwill to the arts, and to
genius, which he had the power of recognizing both as a man of
intellect and as a distinguished artist; Chopin was early placed
in one of the first colleges in Warsaw. Prince Radziwill did not
cultivate music only as a simple dilettante, he was also a
remarkable composer. His beautiful rendering of Faust, published
some years ago, and executed at fixed epochs by the Academy of
Song at Berlin, appears to us far superior to any other attempts
which have been made to transport it into the realm of music, by
its close internal appropriateness to the peculiar genius of the
poem. Assisting the limited means of the family of Chopin, the
Prince made him the inestimable gift of a finished education, of
which no part had been neglected. Through the person of a friend,
M. Antoine Korzuchowski, whose own elevated mind enabled him to
understand the requirements of an artistic career, the Prince
always paid his pension from his first entrance into college,
until the completion of his studies. From this time until the
death of Chopin, M. Antoine Korzuchowski always held the closest
relations of friendship with him.

In speaking of this period of his life, it gives us pleasure to
quote the charming lines which may be applied to him more justly,
than other pages in which his character is believed to have been
traced, but in which we only find it distorted, and in such false
proportions as are given in a profile drawn upon an elastic
tissue, which has been pulled athwart, biased by contrary
movements during the whole progress of the sketch. [Footnote:
These extracts, with many that succeed them, in which the
character of Chopin is described, are taken from Lucrezia
Floriani, a novel by Madame Sand, in which the leading characters
are said to be intended to represent Liszt, Chopin, and herself.-
-Note of the Translator.]

"Gentle, sensitive, and very lovely, at fifteen years of age he
united the charms of adolescence with the gravity of a more
mature age. He was delicate both in body and in mind. Through the
want of muscular development he retained a peculiar beauty, an
exceptional physiognomy, which had, if we may venture so to
speak, neither age nor sex. It was not the bold and masculine air
of a descendant of a race of Magnates, who knew nothing but
drinking, hunting and making war; neither was it the effeminate
loveliness of a cherub couleur de rose. It was more like the
ideal creations with which the poetry of the middle ages adorned
the Christian temples: a beautiful angel, with a form pure and
slight as a young god of Olympus, with a face like that of a
majestic woman filled with a divine sorrow, and as the crown of
all, an expression at the same time tender and severe, chaste and

"This expression revealed the depths of his being. Nothing could
be purer, more exalted than his thoughts; nothing more tenacious,
more exclusive, more intensely devoted, than his
affections....But he could only understand that which closely
resembled himself....Every thing else only existed for him as a
kind of annoying dream, which he tried to shake off while living
with the rest of the world. Always plunged in reveries, realities
displeased him. As a child he could never touch a sharp
instrument without injuring himself with it; as a man, he never
found himself face to face with a being different from himself
without being wounded by the living contradiction...

"He was preserved from constant antagonism by a voluntary and
almost inveterate habit of never seeing or hearing any thing
which was disagreeable to him, unless it touched upon his
personal affections. The beings who did not think as he did, were
only phantoms in his eyes. As his manners were polished and
graceful, it was easy to mistake his cold disdain on
insurmountable aversion for benevolent courtesy...

"He never spent an hour in open-hearted expansiveness, without
compensating for it by a season of reserve. The moral causes
which induced such reserve were too slight, too subtle, to be
discovered by the naked eye. It was necessary to use the
microscope to read his soul, into which so little of the light of
the living ever penetrated.......

"With such a character, it seems strange he should have had
friends: yet he had them, not only the friends of his mother who
esteemed him as the noble son of a noble mother, but friends of
his own age, who loved him ardently, and who were loved by him in
return..... He had formed a high ideal of friendship; in the age
of early illusions he loved to think that his friends and
himself, brought up nearly in the same manner, with the same
principles, would never change their opinions, and that no formal
disagreement could ever occur between them.......

"He was externally so affectionate, his education had been so
finished, and he possessed so much natural grace, that he had the
gift of pleasing even where he was not personally known. His
exceeding loveliness was immediately prepossessing, the delicacy
of his constitution rendered him interesting in the eyes of
women, the full yet graceful cultivation of his mind, the sweet
and captivating originality of his conversation, gained for him
the attention of the most enlightened men. Men less highly
cultivated, liked him for his exquisite courtesy of manner. They
were so much the more pleased with this, because, in their
simplicity, they never imagined it was the graceful fulfillment
of a duty into which no real sympathy entered.

"Could such people have divined the secrets of his mystic
character, they would have said he was more amiable than loving--
and with respect to them, this would have been true. But how
could they have known that his real, though rare attachments,
were so vivid, so profound, so undying?...

"Association with him in the details of life was delightful. He
filled all the forms of friendship with an unaccustomed charm,
and when he expressed his gratitude, it was with that deep
emotion which recompenses kindness with usury. He willingly
imagined that he felt himself every day dying; he accepted the
cares of a friend, hiding from him, lest it should render him
unhappy, the little time he expected to profit by them. He
possessed great physical courage, and if he did not accept with
the heroic recklessness of youth the idea of approaching death,
at least he cherished the expectation of it with a kind of bitter

The attachment which he felt for a young lady, who never ceased
to feel a reverential homage for him, may be traced back to his
early youth. The tempest which in one of its sudden gusts tore
Chopin from his native soil, like a bird dreamy and abstracted
surprised by the storm upon the branches of a foreign tree,
sundered the ties of this first love, and robbed the exile of a
faithful and devoted wife, as well as disinherited him of a
country. He never found the realization of that happiness of
which he had once dreamed with her, though he won the glory of
which perhaps he had never thought. Like the Madonnas of Luini
whose looks are so full of earnest tenderness, this young girl
was sweet and beautiful. She lived on calm, but sad. No doubt the
sadness increased in that pure soul when she knew that no
devotion tender as her own, ever came to sweeten the existence of
one whom she had adored with that ingenuous submission, that
exclusive devotion, that entire self-forgetfulness, naive and
sublime, which transform the woman into the angel.

Those who are gifted by nature with the beautiful, yet fatal
energies of genius, and who are consequently forbidden to
sacrifice the care of their glory to the exactions of their love,
are probably right in fixing limits to the abnegation of their
own personality. But the divine emotions due to absolute
devotion, may be regretted even in the presence of the most
sparkling endowments of genius. The utter submission, the
disinterestedness of love, in absorbing the existence, the will,
the very name of the woman in that of the man she loves, can
alone authorize him in believing that he has really shared his
life with her, and that his honorable love for her has given her
that which no chance lover, accidentally met, could have rendered
her: peace of heart and the honor of his name.

This young Polish lady, unfortunately separated from Chopin,
remained faithful to his memory, to all that was left of him. She
devoted herself to his parents. The father of Chopin would never
suffer the portrait which she had drawn of him in the days of
hope, to be replaced by another, though from the hands of a far
more skilful artist. We saw the pale cheeks of this melancholy
woman, glow like alabaster when a light shines through its snow,
many years afterwards, when in gazing upon this picture, she met
the eyes of his father.

The amiable character of Chopin won for him while at college the
love of his fellow collegiates, particularly that of Prince
Czetwertynski and his brothers. He often spent the vacations and
days of festival with them at the house of their mother, the
Princess Louise Czetwertynska, who cultivated music with a true
feeling for its beauties, and who soon discovered the poet in the
musician. Perhaps she was the first who made Chopin feel the
charm of being understood, as well as heard. The Princess was
still beautiful, and possessed a sympathetic soul united to many
high qualities. Her saloon was one of the most brilliant and
RECHERCHE in Warsaw. Chopin often met there the most
distinguished women of the city. He became acquainted there with
those fascinating beauties who had acquired a European celebrity,
when Warsaw was so famed for the brilliancy, elegance, and grace
of its society. He was introduced by the Princess Czetwertynska
to the Princess of Lowicz; by her he was presented to the
Countess Zamoyska; to the Princess Radziwill; to the Princess
Jablonowska; enchantresses, surrounded by many beauties little
less illustrious.

While still very young, he has often cadenced their steps to the
chords of his piano. In these meetings, which might almost be
called assemblies of fairies, he may often have discovered,
unveiled in the excitement of the dance, the secrets of
enthusiastic and tender souls. He could easily read the hearts
which were attracted to him by friendship and the grace of his
youth, and thus was enabled early to learn of what a strange
mixture of leaven and cream of roses, of gunpowder and tears of
angels, the poetic Ideal of his nation is formed. When his
wandering fingers ran over the keys, suddenly touching some
moving chords, he could see how the furtive tears coursed down
the cheeks of the loving girl, or the young neglected wife; how
they moistened the eyes of the young men, enamored of, and eager
for glory. Can we not fancy some young beauty asking him to play
a simple prelude, then softened by the tones, leaning her rounded
arm upon the instrument to support her dreaming head, while she
suffered the young artist to divine in the dewy glitter of the
lustrous eyes, the song sung by her youthful heart? Did not
groups, like sportive nymphs, throng around him, and begging him
for some waltz of giddying rapidity, smile upon him with such
wildering joyousness, as to put him immediately in unison with
the gay spirit of the dance? He saw there the chaste grace of his
brilliant countrywomen displayed in the Mazourka, and the
memories of their witching fascination, their winning reserve,
were never effaced from his soul.

In an apparently careless manner, but with that involuntary and
subdued emotion which accompanies the remembrance of our early
delights, he would sometimes remark that he first understood the
whole meaning of the feeling which is contained in the melodies
and rhythms of national dances, upon the days in which he saw
these exquisite fairies at some magic fete, adorned with that
brilliant coquetry which sparkles like electric fire, and
flashing from heart to heart, heightens love, blinds it, or robs
it of all hope. And when the muslins of India, which the Greeks
would have said were woven of air, were replaced by the heavier
folds of Venetian velvet, and the perfumed roses and sculptured
petals of the hot-house camellias gave way to the gorgeous
bouquets of the jewel caskets; it often seemed to him that
however good the orchestra might be, the dancers glided less
rapidly over the floor, that their laugh was less sonorous, their
eye less luminous, than upon those evenings in which the dance
had been suddenly improvised, because he had succeeded in
electrifying his audience through the magic of his performance.
If he electrified them, it was because he repeated, truly in
hieroglyphic tones, but yet easily understood by the initiated,
the secret whispers which his delicate ear had caught from the
reserved yet impassioned hearts, which indeed resemble the
Fraxinella, that plant so full of burning and vivid life, that
its flowers are always surrounded by a gas as subtle as
inflammable. He had seen celestial visions glitter, and illusory
phantoms fade in this sublimated air; he had divined the meaning
of the swarms of passions which are forever buzzing in it; he
knew how these hurtling emotions fluttered through the reckless
human soul; how, notwithstanding their ceaseless agitation and
excitement, they could intermingle, interweave, intercept each
other, without once disturbing the exquisite proportions of
external grace, the imposing and classic charm of manner. It was
thus that he learned to prize so highly the noble and measured
manners which preserve delicacy from insipidity; petty cares from
wearisome trifling; conventionalism from tyranny; good taste from
coldness; and which never permit the passions to resemble, as is
often the case where such careful culture does not rule, those
stony and calcareous vegetables whose hard and brittle growth
takes a name of such sad contrast: flowers of iron (FLOS FERRI).

His early introduction into this society, in which regularity of
form did not conceal petrifaction of heart, induced Chopin to
think that the CONVENANCES and courtesies of manner, in place of
being only a uniform mask, repressing the character of each
individual under the symmetry of the same lines, rather serve to
contain the passions without stifling them, coloring only that
bald crudity of tone which is so injurious to their beauty,
elevating that materialism which debases them, robbing them of
that license which vulgarizes them, lowering that vehemence which
vitiates them, pruning that exuberance which exhausts them,
teaching the "lovers of the ideal" to unite the virtues which
have sprung from a knowledge of evil, with those "which cause its
very existence to be forgotten in speaking to those they love."
As these visions of his youth deepened in the long perspective of
memories, they gained in grace, in charm, in delight, in his
eyes, fascinating him to such an extent that no reality could
destroy their secret power over his imagination, rendering his
repugnance more and more unconquerable to that license of
allurement, that brutal tyranny of caprice, that eagerness to
drink the cup of fantasy to the very dregs, that stormy pursuit
of all the changes and incongruities of life, which rule in the
strange mode of life known as LA BOHEME.

More than once in the history of art and literature, a poet has
arisen, embodying in himself the poetic sense of a whole nation,
an entire epoch, representing the types which his contemporaries
pursue and strive to realize, in an absolute manner in his works:
such a poet was Chopin for his country and for the epoch in which
he was born. The poetic sentiments the most widely spread, yet
the most intimate and inherent of his nation, were embodied and
united in his imagination, and represented by his brilliant
genius. Poland has given birth to many bards, some of whom rank
among the first poets of the world.

Its writers are now making strenuous efforts to display in the
strongest light, the most glorious and interesting facts of its
history, the most peculiar and picturesque phases of its manners
and customs. Chopin, differing from them in having formed no
premeditated design, surpasses them all in originality. He did
not determine upon, he did not seek such a result; he created no
ideal a priori. Without having predetermined to transport himself
into the past, he constantly remembered the glories of his
country, he understood and sung the loves and tears of his
contemporaries without having analyzed them in advance. He did not
task himself, nor study to be a national musician. Like all truly
national poets he sang spontaneously without premeditated design
or preconceived choice all that inspiration dictated to him, as
we hear it gushing forth in his songs without labor, almost
without effort. He repeated in the most idealized form the
emotions which had animated and embellished his youth; under the
magic delicacy of his pen he displayed the Ideal, which is, if we
may be permitted so to speak, the Real among his people; an Ideal
really in existence among them, which every one in general and
each one in particular approaches by the one or the other of its
many sides. Without assuming to do so, he collected in luminous
sheaves the impressions felt everywhere throughout his country--
vaguely felt it is true, yet in fragments pervading all hearts.
Is it not by this power of reproducing in a poetic formula,
enchanting to the imagination of all nations, the indefinite
shades of feeling widely scattered but frequently met among their
compatriots, that the artists truly national are distinguished?

Not without reason has the task been undertaken of collecting the
melodies indigenous to every country. It appears to us it would
be of still deeper interest, to trace the influences forming the
characteristic powers of the authors most deeply inspired by the
genius of the nation to which they belong. Until the present
epoch there have been very few distinctive compositions, which
stand out from the two great divisions of the German and Italian
schools of music. But with the immense development which this art
seems destined to attain, perhaps renewing for us the glorious
era of the Painters of the CINQUE CENTO, it is highly probable
that composers will appear whose works will be marked by an
originality drawn from differences of organization, of races, and
of climates. It is to be presumed that we will be able to
recognize the influences of the country in which they were born
upon the great masters in music, as well as in the other arts;
that we will be able to distinguish the peculiar and predominant
traits of the national genius more completely developed, more
poetically true, more interesting to study, in the pages of their
compositions than in the crude, incorrect, uncertain, vague and
tremulous sketches of the uncultured people.

Chopin must be ranked among the first musicians thus
individualizing in themselves the poetic sense of an entire
nation, not because he adopted the rhythm of POLONAISES,
MAZOURKAS, and CRACOVIENNES, and called many of his works by such
names, for in so doing he would have limited himself to the
multiplication of such works alone, and would always have given
us the same mode, the remembrance of the same thing; a
reproduction which would soon have grown wearisome, serving but
to multiply compositions of similar form, which must have soon
grown more or less monotonous. It is because he filled these
forms with the feelings peculiar to his country, because the
expression of the national heart may be found under all the modes
in which he has written, that he is entitled to be considered a
poet essentially Polish. His PRELUDES, his NOCTURNES, his
SCHERZOS, his CONCERTOS, his shortest as well as his longest
compositions, are all filled with the national sensibility,
expressed indeed in different degrees, modified and varied in a
thousand ways, but always bearing the same character. An
eminently subjective author, Chopin has given the same life to
all his productions, animated all his works with his own spirit.
All his writings are thus linked by a marked unity. Their
beauties as well as their defects may be traced to the same order
of emotions, to peculiar modes of feeling. The reproduction of
the feelings of his people, idealized and elevated through his
own subjective genius, is an essential requisite for the national
poet who desires that the heart of his country should vibrate in
unison with his own strains.

By the analogies of words and images, we should like to render it
possible for our readers to comprehend the exquisite yet
irritable sensibility peculiar to ardent yet susceptible hearts,
to haughty yet deeply wounded souls. We cannot flatter ourselves
that in the cold realm of words we have been able to give any
idea of such ethereal odorous flames. In comparison with the
vivid and delicious excitement produced by other arts, words
always appear poor, cold, and arid, so that the assertion seems
just: "that of all modes of expressing sentiments, words are the
most insufficient." We cannot flatter ourselves with having
attained in our descriptions the exceeding delicacy of touch,
necessary to sketch that which Chopin has painted with hues so
ethereal. All is subtle in his compositions, even the source of
excitement, of passion; all open, frank, primitive impressions
disappear in them; before they meet the eye, they have passed
through the prism of an exacting, ingenious, and fertile
imagination, and it has become difficult if not impossible to
resolve them again into their primal elements. Acuteness of
discernment is required to understand, delicacy to describe them.
In seizing such refined impressions with the keenest
discrimination, in embodying them with infinite art, Chopin has
proved himself an artist of the highest order. It is only after
long and patient study, after having pursued his sublimated ideas
through their multiform ramifications, that we learn to admire
sufficiently, to comprehend aright, the genius with which he has
rendered his subtle thoughts visible and palpable, without once
blunting their edge, or ever congealing their fiery flow.

He was so entirely filled with the sentiments whose most perfect
types he believed he had known in his own youth, with the ideas
which it alone pleased him to confide to art; he contemplated art
so invariably from the same point of view, that his artistic
preferences could not fail to be influenced by his early
impressions. In the great models and CHEFS-D'OEUVRE, he only
sought that which was in correspondence with his own soul. That
which stood in relation to it pleased him; that which resembled
it not, scarcely obtained justice from him. Uniting in himself
the frequently incompatible qualities of passion and grace he
possessed great accuracy of judgment, and preserved himself from
all petty partiality, but he was but slightly attracted by the
greatest beauties, the highest merits, when they wounded any of
the phases of his poetic conceptions. Notwithstanding the high
admiration which he entertained for the works of Beethoven,
certain portions of them always seemed to him too rudely
sculptured; their structure was too athletic to please him, their
wrath seemed to him too tempestuous, their passion too
overpowering, the lion-marrow which fills every member of his
phases was matter too substantial for his tastes, and the
Raphaelic and Seraphic profiles which are wrought into the midst
of the nervous and powerful creations of this great genius, were
to him almost painful from the force of the cutting contrast in
which they are frequently set.

In spite of the charm which he acknowledged in some of the
melodies of Schubert, he would not willingly listen to those in
which the contours were too sharp for his ear, in which suffering
lies naked, and we can almost feel the flesh palpitate, and hear
the bones crack and crash under the rude embrace of sorrow. All
savage wildness was repulsive to him. In music, in literature, in
the conduct of life, all that approached the melodramatic was
painful to him The frantic and despairing aspects of exaggerated
romanticism were repellent to him, he could not endure the
struggling for wonderful effects, for delicious excesses. "He
loved Shakspeare only under many conditions. He thought his
characters were drawn too closely to the life, and spoke a
language too true; he preferred the epic and lyric syntheses
which leave the poor details of humanity in the shade. For the
same reason he spoke little and listened less, not wishing to
give expression to his own thoughts, or to receive the thoughts
of others, until after they had attained a certain degree of

A nature so completely master of itself, so full of delicate
reserve, which loved to divine through glimpses, presentiments,
suppositions, all that had been left untold (a species of
divination always dear to poets who can so eloquently finish the
interrupted words) must have felt annoyed, almost scandalized, by
an audacity which leaves nothing unexpressed, nothing to be
divined. If he had been called upon to express his own views upon
this subject, we believe he would have confessed that in
accordance with his taste, he was only permitted to give vent to
his feelings on condition of suffering much to remain unrevealed,
or only to be divined under the rich veils of broidery in which
he wound his emotions. If that which they agree in calling
classic in art appeared to him too full of methodical
restrictions, if he refused to permit himself to be garroted in
the manacles and frozen in the conventions of systems, if he did
not like confinement although enclosed in the safe symmetry of a
gilded cage, it was not because he preferred the license of
disorder, the confusion of irregularity. It was rather that he
might soar like the lark into the deep blue of the unclouded
heavens. Like the Bird of Paradise, which it was once thought
never slept but while resting upon extended wing, rocked only by
the breath of unlimited space at the sublime height at which it
reposed; he obstinately refused to descend to bury himself in the
misty gloom of the forests, or to surround himself with the
howlings and wailings with which it is filled. He would not leave
the depths of azure for the wastes of the desert, or attempt to
fix pathways over the treacherous waves of sand, which the winds,
in exulting irony, delight to sweep over the traces of the rash
mortal seeking to mark the line of his wandering through the
drifting, blinding swells.

That style of Italian art which is so open, so glaring, so devoid
of the attraction of mystery or of science, with all that which
in German art bears the seal of vulgar, though powerful energy,
was distasteful to him. Apropos of Schubert he once remarked:
"that the sublime is desecrated when followed by the trivial or
commonplace." Among the composers for the piano Hummel was one of
the authors whom he reread with the most pleasure. Mozart was in
his eyes the ideal type, the Poet par excellence, because he,
less rarely than any other author, condescended to descend the
steps leading from the beautiful to the commonplace. The father
of Mozart after having been present at a representation of
IDOMENEE made to his son the following reproach: "You have been
wrong in putting in it nothing for the long ears." It was
precisely for such omissions that Chopin admired him. The gayety
of Papageno charmed him; the love of Tamino with its mysterious
trials seemed to him worthy of having occupied Mozart; he
understood the vengeance of Donna Anna because it cast but a
deeper shade upon her mourning. Yet such was his Sybaritism of
purity, his dread of the commonplace, that even in this immortal
work he discovered some passages whose introduction we have heard
him regret. His worship for Mozart was not diminished but only
saddened by this. He could sometimes forget that which was
repulsive to him, but to reconcile himself to it was impossible.
He seemed to be governed in this by one of those implacable and
irrational instincts, which no persuasion, no effort, can ever
conquer sufficiently to obtain a state of mere indifference
towards the objects of the antipathy; an aversion sometimes so
insurmountable, that we can only account for it by supposing it
to proceed from some innate and peculiar idiosyncrasy.

After he had finished his studies in harmony with Professor
Joseph Elsner, who taught him the rarely known and difficult task
of being exacting towards himself, and placing the just value
upon the advantages which are only to be obtained by dint of
patience and labor; and after he had finished his collegiate
course, it was the desire of his parents that he should travel in
order that he might become familiar with the finest works under
the advantage of their perfect execution. For this purpose he
visited many of the German cities. He had left Warsaw upon one of
these short excursions, when the revolution of the 29th of
November broke out in 1830.

Forced to remain in Vienna, he was heard there in some concerts,
but the Viennese public, generally so cultivated, so prompt to
seize the most delicate shades of execution, the finest
subtleties of thought, during this winter were disturbed and
abstracted. The young artist did not produce there the effect he
had the right to anticipate. He left Vienna with the design of
going to London, but he came first to Paris, where he intended to
remain but a short time. Upon his passport drawn up for England,
he had caused to be inserted: "passing through Paris." These
words sealed his fate. Long years afterwards, when he seemed not
only acclimated, but naturalized in France, he would smilingly
say: I am "passing through Paris."

He gave several concerts after his arrival in Paris, where he was
immediately received and admired in the circles of the elite, as
well as welcomed by the young artists. We remember his first
appearance in the saloons of Pleyel, where the most enthusiastic
and redoubled applause seemed scarcely sufficient to express our
enchantment for the genius which had revealed new phases of
poetic feeling, and made such happy yet bold innovations in the
form of musical art.

Unlike the greater part of young debutants, he was not
intoxicated or dazzled for a moment by his triumph, but accepted
it without pride or false modesty, evincing none of the puerile
enjoyment of gratified vanity exhibited by the PARVENUS of
success. His countrymen who were then in Paris gave him a most
affectionate reception. He was intimate in the house of Prince
Czartoryski, of the Countess Plater, of Madame de Komar, and in
that of her daughters, the Princess de Beauveau and the Countess
Delphine Potocka, whose beauty, together with her indescribable
and spiritual grace, made her one of the most admired sovereigns
of the society of Paris. He dedicated to her his second Concerto,
which contains the Adagio we have already described. The ethereal
beauty of the Countess, her enchanting voice enchained him by a
fascination full of respectful admiration. Her voice was destined
to be the last which should vibrate upon the musician's heart.
Perhaps the sweetest sounds of earth accompanied the parting soul
until they blended in his ear with the first chords of the
angels' lyres.

He mingled much with the Polish circle in Paris; with Orda who
seemed born to command the future, and who was however killed in
Algiers at twenty years of age; with Counts Plater, Grzymala,
Ostrowski, Szembeck, with Prince Lubomirski, etc. etc. As the
Polish families who came afterwards to Paris were all anxious to
form acquaintance with him, he continued to mingle principally
with his own people. He remained through them not only AU COURANT
of all that was passing in his own country, but even in a kind of
musical correspondence with it. He liked those who visited Paris
to show him the airs or new songs they had brought with them, and
when the words of these airs pleased him, he frequently wrote a
new melody for them, thus popularizing them rapidly in his
country although the name of their author was often unknown. The
number of these melodies, due to the inspiration of the heart
alone, having become considerable, he often thought of collecting
them for publication. But he thought of it too late, and they
remain scattered and dispersed, like the perfume of the scented
flowers blessing the wilderness and sweetening the "desert air"
around some wandering traveller, whom chance may have led upon
their secluded track. During our stay in Poland we heard some of
the melodies which are attributed to him, and which are truly
worthy of him; but who would now dare to make an uncertain
selection between the inspirations of the national poet, and the
dreams of his people?

Chopin kept for a long time aloof from the celebrities of Paris;
their glittering train repelled him. As his character and habits
had more true originality than apparent eccentricity, he inspired
less curiosity than they did. Besides he had sharp repartees for
those who imprudently wished to force him into a display of his
musical abilities. Upon one occasion after he had just left the
dining-room, an indiscreet host, who had had the simplicity to
promise his guests some piece executed by him as a rare dessert,
pointed to him an open piano. He should have remembered that in
counting without the host, it is necessary to count twice. Chopin
at first refused, but wearied at last by continued persecution,
assuming, to sharpen the sting of his words, a stifled and
languid tone of voice, he exclaimed: "Ah, sir, I have scarcely


Madame Sand--Lelia--Visit to Majorca--Exclusive Ideals.

In 1836 Madame Sand had not only published INDIANA, VALENTINE,
and JACQUES, but also LELIA, that prose poem of which she
afterwards said: "If I regret having written it, it is because I
could not now write it. Were I in the same state of mind now as
when it was written, it would indeed be a great consolation to me
to be able to commence it." The mere painting of romances in cold
water colors must have seemed, without doubt, dull to Madame
Sand, after having handled the hammer and chisel of the sculptor
so boldly, in modeling the grand lines of that semi-colossal
statue, in cutting those sinewy muscles, which even in their
statuesque immobility, are full of bewildering and seductive
charm. Should we continue long to gaze upon it, it excites the
most painful emotion. In strong contrast to the miracle of
Pygmalion, Lelia seems a living Galatea, rich in feeling, full of
love, whom the deeply enamored artist has tried to bury alive in
his exquisitely sculptured marble, stifling the palpitating
breath, and congealing the warm blood in the vain hope of
elevating and immortalizing the beauty he adores. In the presence
of this vivid nature petrified by art, we cannot feel that
admiration is kindled into love, but, saddened and chilled, we
are forced to acknowledge that love may be frozen into mere

Brown and olive-hued Lelia! Dark as Lara, despairing as Manfred,
rebellious as Cain, thou hast ranged through the depths of
solitude! But thou art more ferocious, more savage, more
inconsolable than they, because thou hast never found a man's
heart sufficiently feminine to love thee as they were loved, to
pay the homage of a confiding and blind submission to thy virile
charms, to offer thee a mute yet ardent devotion, to suffer its
obedience to be protected by thy Amazonian force! Woman-hero!
Like the Amazons, thou hast been valiant and eager for combats;
like them thou hast not feared to expose the exquisite loveliness
of thy face to the fierceness of the summer's sun, or the sharp
blasts of winter! Thou hast hardened thy fragile limbs by the
endurance of fatigue, thus robbing them of the subtle power of
their weakness! Thou hast covered thy palpitating breast with a
heavy cuirass, which has pressed and torn it, dyeing its snow in
blood;--that gentle woman's bosom, charming as life, discreet as
the grave, which is always adored by man when his heart is
permitted to form its sole, its impenetrable buckler!

After having blunted her chisel in polishing this statue, which,
by its majesty, its haughty disdain, its look of hopeless
anguish, shadowed by the frowning of the pure brows and by the
long loose locks shivering with electric life, reminds us of
those antique cameos on which we still admire the perfect
features, the beautiful yet fatal brow, the haughty smile of the
Medusa, whose gaze paralyzed and stopped the pulses of the human
heart;--Madame Sand in vain sought another form for the
expression of the emotions which tortured her insatiate soul.
After having draped this figure with the highest art,
accumulating every species of masculine greatness upon it in
order to compensate for the highest of all qualities which she
repudiated for it, the grandeur of, "utter self-abnegation for
love," which the many-sided poet has placed in the empyrean and
called "the Eternal Feminine," (DAS EWIGWEIBLICHE,)--a greatness
which is love existing before any of its joys, surviving all its
sorrows;--after having caused Don Juan to be cursed, and a divine
hymn to be chanted to Desire by Lelia, who, as well as Don Juan,
had repulsed the only delight which crowns desire, the luxury of
self-abnegation,--after having fully revenged Elvira by the
creation of Stenio,--after having scorned man more than Don Juan
had degraded woman,--Madame Sand, in her LETTRES D'UN VOYAGEUR,
depicts the shivering palsy, the painful lethargy which seizes
the artist, when, having incorporated the emotion which inspired
him in his work, his imagination still remains under the
domination of the insatiate idea without being able to find
another form in which to incarnate it. Such poetic sufferings
were well understood by Byron, when he makes Tasso shed his most
bitter tears, not for his chains, not for his physical
sufferings, not for the ignominy heaped upon him, but for his
finished Epic, for the ideal world created by his thought and now
about to close its doors upon him, and by thus expelling him from
its enchanted realm, rendering him at last sensible of the gloomy
realities around him:--

     "But this is o'er--my pleasant task is done:--
     My long-sustaining friend of many years:
     If I do blot thy final page with tears,
     Know that my sorrows have wrung from me none.
     But thou, my young creation! my soul's child!
     Which ever playing round me came and smiled,
     And woo'd me from myself with thy sweet sight,
     Thou too art gone--and so is my delight."

                                   LAMENT OF TASSO.--BYRON.

At this epoch, Madame Sand often heard a musician, one of the
friends who had greeted Chopin with the most enthusiastic joy
upon his arrival at Paris, speak of him. She heard him praise his
poetic genius even more than his artistic talent. She was
acquainted with his compositions, and admired their graceful
tenderness. She was struck by the amount of emotion displayed in
his poems, with the effusions of a heart so noble and dignified.
Some of the countrymen of Chopin spoke to her of the women of
their country, with the enthusiasm natural to them upon that
subject, an enthusiasm then very much increased by a remembrance
of the sublime sacrifices made by them during the last war.
Through their recitals and the poetic inspiration of the Polish
artist, she perceived an ideal of love which took the form of
worship for woman. She thought that guaranteed from dependence,
preserved from inferiority, her role might be like the fairy
power of the Peri, that ethereal intelligence and friend of man.
Perhaps she did not fully understand what innumerable links of
suffering, of silence, of patience, of gentleness, of indulgence,
of courageous perseverance, had been necessary for the formation
of the worship for this imperious but resigned ideal, beautiful
indeed, but sad to behold, like those plants with the rose-
colored corollas, whose stems, intertwining and interlacing in a
network of long and numerous branches, give life to ruins;
destined ever to embellish decay, growing upon old walls and
hiding only tottering stones! Beautiful veils woven by beneficent
Nature, in her ingenious and inexhaustible richness, to cover the
constant decay of human things!

As Madame Sand perceived that this artist, in place of giving
body to his phantasy in porphyry and marble, or defining his
thoughts by the creation of massive caryatides, rather effaced
the contour of his works, and, had it been necessary, could have
elevated his architecture itself from the soil, to suspend it,
like the floating palaces of the Fata Morgana, in the fleecy
clouds, through his aerial forms of almost impalpable buoyancy,
she was more and more attracted by that mystic ideal which she
perceived glowing within them. Though her arm was powerful enough
to have sculptured the round shield, her hand was delicate enough
to have traced those light relievos where the shadows of
ineffaceable profiles have been thrown upon and trusted to a
stone scarcely raised from its level plane. She was no stranger
in the supernatural world, she to whom Nature, as to a favored
child, had unloosed her girdle and unveiled all the caprices, the
attractions, the delights, which she can lend to beauty. She was
not ignorant of the lightest graces; she whose eye could embrace
such vast proportions, had stooped to study the glowing
illuminations painted upon the wings of the fragile butterfly.
She had traced the symmetrical and marvellous network which the
fern extends as a canopy over the wood strawberry; she had
listened to the murmuring of streams through the long reeds and
stems of the water-grass, where the hissing of the "amorous
viper" may be heard; she had followed the wild leaps of the Will-
with-a-wisp as it bounds over the surface of the meadows and
marshes; she had pictured to herself the chimerical dwelling-
places toward which it perfidiously attracts the benighted
traveller; she had listened to the concerts given by the Cicada
and their friends in the stubble of the fields; she had learned
the names of the inhabitants of the winged republics of the woods
which she could distinguish as well by their plumaged robes, as
by their jeering roulades or plaintive cries. She knew the secret
tenderness of the lily in the splendor of its tints; she had
listened to the sighs of Genevieve, [Footnote: ANDRE] the maiden
enamored of flowers.

She was visited in her dreams by those "unknown friends" who came
to rejoin her "when she was seized with distress upon a desolate
shore," brought by a "rapid large and full
bark"...upon which she mounted to leave the unknown shores, "the
country of chimeras which make real life appear like a dream half
effaced to those, who enamored from their infancy of large shells
of pearl, mount them to land in those isles where all are young
and beautiful...where the men and women are crowned with flowers,
with their long locks floating upon their shoulders...holding
vases and harps of a strange form...having songs and voices not
of this world...all loving each other equally with a divine
love...where crystal fountains of perfumed waters play in basins
of silver...where blue roses bloom in vases of alabaster...where
the perspectives are all enchanted...where they walk with naked
feet upon the thick green moss, soft as carpets of velvet...where
all sing as they wander among the fragrant groves." [Footnote:

She knew these unknown friends so well that after having again
seen them, "she could not dream of them without palpitations of
the heart during the whole day." She was initiated into the
Hoffmannic world--"she who had surprised such ineffable smiles
upon the portraits of the dead;" [Footnote: SPIRIDSON] who had
seen the rays of the sun falling through the stained glass of a
Gothic window form a halo round loved heads, like the arm of God,
luminous and impalpable, surrounded by a vortex of atoms;--she
who had known such glorious apparitions, clothed with the purple
and golden glories of the setting sun. The realm of fantasy had
no myth with whose secret she was not familiar!

Thus she was naturally anxious to become acquainted with one who
had with rapid wing flown "to those scenes which it is impossible
to describe, but which must exist somewhere, either upon the
earth, or in some of the planets, whose light we love to gaze
upon in the forests when the moon has set." [Footnote: LETTRES
D'UN VOYAGEUR] Such scenes she had prayed never to be forced to
desert--never desiring to bring her heart and imagination back to
this dreary world, too like the gloomy coasts of Finland, where
the slime and miry slough can only be escaped by scaling the
naked granite of the solitary rocks. Fatigued with the massive
statue she had sculptured, the Amazonian Lelia; wearied with the
grandeur of an Ideal which it is impossible to mould from the
gross materials of this earth; she was desirous to form an
acquaintance with the artist "the lover of an impossible so
shadowy"--so near the starry regions. Alas! if these regions are
exempt from the poisonous miasmas of our atmosphere, they are not
free from its desolating melancholy! Perhaps those who are
transported there may adore the shining of new suns--but there
are others not less dear whose light they must see extinguished!
Will not the most glorious among the beloved constellation of the
Pleiades there disappear? Like drops of luminous dew the stars
fall one by one into the nothingness of a yawning abyss, whose
bottomless depths no plummet has ever sounded, while the soul,
contemplating these fields of ether, this blue Sahara with its
wandering and perishing oases,--is stricken by a grief so
hopeless, so profound, that neither enthusiasm nor love can ever
soothe it more. It ingulfs and absorbs all emotions, being no
more agitated by them than the sleeping waters of some tranquil
lake, reflecting the moving images thronging its banks from its
polished surface, are by the varied motions and eager life of the
many objects mirrored upon its glassy bosom. The drowsy waters
cannot thus be wakened from their icy lethargy. This melancholy
saddens even the highest joy. "Through the exhaustion always
accompanying such tension, when the soul is strained above the
region which it naturally inhabits...the insufficiency of speech
is felt for the first time by those who have studied it so much,
and used it so well--we are borne from all active, from all
militant instincts--to travel through boundless space--to be lost
in the immensity of adventurous courses far, far above the
clouds...where we no longer see that the earth is beautiful,
because our gaze is riveted upon the skies...where reality is no
longer poetically draped, as has been so skilfully done by the
author of Waverley, but where, in idealizing poetry itself, the
infinite is peopled with the spirits belonging only to its mystic
realm, as has been done by Byron in his Manfred."

Could Madame Sand have divined the incurable melancholy, the will
which cannot blend with that of others, the imperious
exclusiveness, which invariably seize upon imaginations
delighting in the pursuit of dreams whose realities are nowhere
to be found, or at least never in the matter-of-fact world in
which the dreamers are constrained to dwell? Had she foreseen the
form which devoted attachment assumes for such dreamers; had she
measured the entire and absolute absorption which they will alone
accept as the synonyme of tenderness? It is necessary to be in
some degree shy, shrinking, and secretive as they themselves are,
to be able to understand the hidden depths of characters so
concentrated. Like those susceptible flowers which close their
sensitive petals before the first breath of the North wind, they
too veil their exacting souls in the shrouds of self
concentration, unfolding themselves only under the warming rays
of a propitious sun. Such natures have been called "rich by
exclusiveness;" in opposition to those which are "rich by
expansiveness." "If these differing temperaments should meet and
approach each other, they can never mingle or melt the one into
the other," (says the writer whom we have so often quoted) "but
the one must consume the other, leaving nothing but ashes
behind." Alas! it is the natures like that of the fragile
musician whose days we commemorate, which, consuming themselves,
perish; not wishing, not indeed being able, to live any life but
one in conformity with their own exclusive Ideal.

Chopin seemed to dread Madame Sand more than any other woman, the
modern Sibyl, who, like the Pythoness of old, had said so many
things that others of her sex neither knew nor dared to say. He
avoided and put off all introduction to her. Madame Sand was
ignorant of this. In consequence of that captivating simplicity,
which is one of her noblest charms, she did not divine his fear
of the Delphic priestess. At last she was presented to him, and
an acquaintance with her soon dissipated the prejudices which he
had obstinately nourished against female authors.

In the fall of 1837, Chopin was attacked by an alarming illness,
which left him almost without force to support life. Dangerous
symptoms forced him to go South to avoid the rigor of winter.
Madame Sand, always so watchful over those whom she loved, so
full of compassion for their sufferings, would not permit him,
when his health required so much care, to set out alone, and
determined to accompany him. They selected the island of Majorca
for their residence because the air of the sea, joined to the
mild climate which prevails there, is especially salubrious for
those who are suffering from affections of the lungs. Though he
was so weak when he left Paris that we had no hope of his ever
returning; though after his arrival in Majorca he was long and
dangerously ill; yet so much was he benefited by the change that
big health was improved during several years.

Was it the effect of the balmy climate alone which recalled him
to health? Was it not rather because his life was full of bliss
that he found strength to live? Did he not regain strength only
because he now wished to live? Who can tell how far the influence
of the will extends over the body? Who knows what internal subtle
aroma it has the power of disengaging to preserve the sinking
frame from decay; what vital force it can breathe into the
debilitated organs? Who can say where the dominion of mind over
matter ceases? Who knows how far our senses are under the
dominion of the imagination, to what extent their powers may be
increased, or their extinction accelerated, by its influence? It
matters not how the imagination gains its strange extension of
power, whether through long and bitter exercise, or, whether
spontaneously collecting its forgotten strength, it concentrates
its force in some new and decisive moment of destiny: as when the
rays of the sun are able to kindle a flame of celestial origin
when concentrated in the focus of the burning glass, brittle and
fragile though the medium be.

All the long scattered rays of happiness were collected within
this epoch of the life of Chopin; is it then surprising that they
should have rekindled the flame of life, and that it should have
burned at this time with the most vivid lustre? The solitude
surrounded by the blue waves of the Mediterranean and shaded by
groves of orange, seemed fitted in its exceeding loveliness for
the ardent vows of youthful lovers, still believing in their
naive and sweet illusions, sighing for happiness in "some desert
isle." He breathed there that air for which natures unsuited for
the world, and never feeling themselves happy in it, long with
such a painful home-sickness; that air which may be found
everywhere if we can find the sympathetic souls to breathe it
with us, and which is to be met nowhere without them; that air of
the land of our dreams; and which in spite of all obstacles, of
the bitter real, is easily discovered when sought by two! It is
the air of the country of the ideal to which we gladly entice the
being we cherish, repeating with poor Mignon: DAHIN!

As long as his sickness lasted, Madame Sand never left the pillow
of him who loved her even to death, with an attachment which in
losing all its joys, did not lose its intensity, which remained
faithful to her even after all its memories had turned to pain:
"for it seemed as if this fragile being was absorbed and consumed
by the strength of his affection....Others seek happiness in
their attachments; when they no longer find it, the attachment
gently vanishes. In this they resemble the rest of the world. But
he loved for the sake of loving. No amount of suffering was
sufficient to discourage him. He could enter upon a new phase,
that of woe; but the phase of coldness he could never arrive at.
It would have been indeed a phase of physical agony--for his love
was his life--and delicious or bitter, he had not the power of
withdrawing himself a single moment from its domination."
[Footnote: LUCRESIA FLORIANA] Madame Sand never ceased to be for
Chopin that being of magic spells who had snatched him from the
valley of the shadow of death, whose power had changed his
physical agony into the delicious languor of love. To save him
from death, to bring him back to life, she struggled courageously
with his disease. She surrounded him with those divining and
instinctive cares which are a thousand times more efficacious
than the material remedies known to science. While engaged in
nursing him, she felt no fatigue, no weariness, no
discouragement. Neither her strength, nor her patience, yielded
before the task. Like the mothers in robust health, who appear to
communicate a part of their own strength to the sickly infant
who, constantly requiring their care, have also their preference,
she nursed the precious charge into new life. The disease
yielded: "the funereal oppression which secretly undermined the
spirit of Chopin, destroying and corroding all contentment,
gradually vanished. He permitted the amiable character, the
cheerful serenity of his friend to chase sad thoughts and
mournful presentiments away, and to breathe new force into his
intellectual being."

Happiness succeeded to gloomy fears, like the gradual progression
of a beautiful day after a night full of obscurity and terror,
when so dense and heavy is the vault of darkness which weighs
upon us from above, that we are prepared for a sudden and fatal
catastrophe, we do not even dare to dream of deliverance, when
the despairing eye suddenly catches a bright spot where the mists
clear, and the clouds open like flocks of heavy wool yielding,
even while the edges thicken under the pressure of the hand which
rends them. At this moment, the first ray of hope penetrates the
soul. We breathe more freely like those who lost in the windings
of a dark cavern at last think they see a light, though indeed
its existence is still doubtful. This faint light is the day
dawn, though so colorless are its rays, that it is more like the
extinction of the dying twilight,--the fall of the night-shroud
upon the earth. But it is indeed the dawn; we know it by the
vivid and pure breath of the young zephyrs which it sends forth,
like avant-coureurs, to bear us the assurance of morn and safety.
The balm of flowers fills the air, like the thrilling of an
encouraged hope. A stray bird accidentally commences his song
earlier than usual, it soothes the heart like a distant
consolation, and is accepted as a promise for the future. As the
imperceptibly progressive but sure indications multiply, we are
convinced that in this struggle of light and darkness it is the
shadows of night which are to yield. Raising our eyes to the Dome
of lead above us, we feel that it weighs less heavily upon us,
that it has already lost its fatal stability.

Little by little the long gray lines of light increase, they
stretch themselves along the horizon like fissures into a
brighter world. They suddenly enlarge, they gain upon their dark
boundaries, now they break through them, as the waters bounding
the edge of a lake inundate in irregular pools the arid banks.
Then a fierce opposition begins, banks and long dikes accumulate
to arrest the progress. The clouds are oiled like ridges of sand,
tossing and surging to present obstructions, but like the
impetuous raging of irresistible waters, the light breaks through
them, demolishes them, devours them, and as the rays ascend, the
rolling waves of purple mist glow into crimson. At this moment
the young dawn shines with a timid yet victorious grace, while
the knee bends in admiration and gratitude before it, for the
last terror has vanished, and we feel as if new born.

Fresh objects strike upon the view, as if just called from chaos.
A veil of uniform rose-color covers them all, but as the light
augments in intensity, the thin gauze drapes and folds in shades
of pale carnation, while the advancing plains grow clear in white
and dazzling splendor.

The brilliant sun delays no longer to invade the firmament,
gaining new glory as he rises. The vapors surge and crowd
together, rolling themselves from right to left, like the heavy
drapery of a curtain moved by the wind. Then all breathes, moves,
lives, hums, sings; the sounds mingle, cross, meet, and melt into
each other. Inertia gives place to motion, it spreads,
accelerates and circulates. The waves of the lake undulate and
swell like a bosom touched by love. The tears of the dew,
motionless as those of tenderness, grow more and more
perceptible, one after another they are seen glittering on the
humid herbs, diamonds waiting for the sun to paint with rainbow-
tints their vivid scintillations. The gigantic fan of light in
the East is ever opening larger and wider. Spangles of silver,
borders of scarlet, violet fringes, bars of gold, cover it with
fantastic broidery. Light bands of reddish brown feather its
branches. The brightest scarlet at its centre has the glowing
transparency of the ruby; shading into orange like a burning
coal, it widens like a torch, spreads like a bouquet of flames,
which glows and glows from fervor to fervor, ever more

At last the god of day appears! His blazing front is adorned with
luminous locks of long floating hair. Slowly he seems to rise--
but scarcely has he fully unveiled himself, than he starts
forward, disengages himself from all around him, and, leaving the
earth far below him, takes instantaneous possession of the
vaulted heavens..............

The memory of the days passed in the lovely isle of Majorca, like
the remembrance of an entrancing ecstasy, which fate grants but
once in life even to the most favored of her children, remained
always dear to the heart of Chopin. "He [Footnote: Lucrezia
Fioriani] was no longer upon this earth, he was in an empyrean of
golden clouds and perfumes, his imagination, so full of exquisite
beauty, seemed engaged in a monologue with God himself; and if
upon the radiant prism in whose contemplation he forgot all else,
the magic-lantern of the outer world would even cast its
disturbing shadow, he felt deeply pained, as if in the midst of a
sublime concert, a shrieking old woman should blend her shrill
yet broken tones, her vulgar musical motivo, with the divine
thoughts of the great masters." He always spoke of this period
with deep emotion, profound gratitude, as if its happiness had
been sufficient for a life-time, without hoping that it would
ever be possible again to find a felicity in which the fight of
time was only marked by the tenderness of woman's love, and the
brilliant flashes of true genius. Thus did the clock of Linnaeus
mark the course of time, indicating the hours by the successive
waking and sleeping of the flowers, marking each by a different
perfume, and a display of ever varying beauties, as each
variegated calyx opened in ever changing yet ever lovely form!

The beauties of the countries through which the Poet and Musician
travelled together, struck with more distinctness the imagination
of the former. The loveliness of nature impressed Chopin in a
manner less definite, though not less strong. His soul was
touched, and immediately harmonized with the external
enchantment, yet his intellect did not feel the necessity of
analyzing or classifying it. His heart vibrated in unison with
the exquisite scenery around him, although he was not able at the
moment to assign the precise source of his blissful tranquillity.
Like a true musician, he was satisfied to seize the sentiment of
the scenes he visited, while he seemed to give but little
attention to the plastic material, the picturesque frame, which
did not assimilate with the form of his art, nor belong to his
more spiritualized sphere. However, (a fact that has been often
remarked in organizations such as his,) as he was removed in time
and distance from the scenes in which emotion had obscured his
senses, as the clouds from the burning incense envelope the
censer, the more vividly the forms and beauties of such scenes
stood out in his memory. In the succeeding years, he frequently
spoke of them, as though the remembrance was full of pleasure to
him. But when so entirely happy, he made no inventory of his
bliss. He enjoyed it simply, as we all do in the sweet years of
childhood, when we are deeply impressed by the scenery
surrounding us without ever thinking of its details, yet finding,
long after, the exact image of each object in our memory, though
we are only able to describe its forms when we have ceased to
behold them.

Besides, why should he have tasked himself to scrutinize the
beautiful sites in Spain which formed the appropriate setting of
his poetic happiness? Could he not always find them again through
the descriptions of his inspired companion? As all objects, even
the atmosphere itself, become flame-colored when seen through a
glass dyed in crimson, so he might contemplate these delicious
sites in the glowing hues cast around them by the impassioned
genius of the woman he loved. The nurse of his sick- room--was
she not also a great artist? Rare and beautiful union! If to the
depths of tenderness and devotion, in which the true and
irresistible empire of woman must commence, and deprived of which
she is only an enigma without a possible solution, nature should
unite the most brilliant gifts of genius,--the miraculous
spectacle of the Greek firs would be renewed,--the glittering
flames would again sport over the abysses of the ocean without
being extinguished or submerged in the chilling depths, adding,
as the living hues were thrown upon the surging waves, the
glowing dyes of the purple fire to the celestial blue of the
heaven-reflecting sea!

Has genius ever attained that utter self-abnegation, that sublime
humility of heart which gives the power to make those strange
sacrifices of the entire Past, of the whole Future; those
immolations, as courageous as mysterious; those mystic and utter
holocausts of self, not temporary and changing, but monotonous
and constant,--through whose might alone tenderness may justly
claim the higher name, devotion? Has not the force of genius its
own exclusive and legitimate exactions, and does not the force of
woman consist in the abdication of all exactions? Can the royal
purple and burning flames of genius ever float upon the
immaculate azure of woman's destiny?...


Disappointment--Ill Health--Visit to England--Devotion of
Friends--Last Sacraments--Delphina Potocka--Louise--M. Gutman--

FROM the date of 1840, the health of Chopin, affected by so many
changes, visibly declined. During some years, his most tranquil
hours were spent at Nohant, where he seemed to suffer less than
elsewhere. He composed there, with pleasure, bringing with him
every year to Paris several new compositions, but every winter
caused him an increase of suffering. Motion became at first
difficult, and soon almost impossible to him. From 1846 to 1847,
he scarcely walked at all; he could not ascend the staircase
without the most painful sensation of suffocation, and his life
was only prolonged through continual care and the greatest

Towards the Spring of 1847, as his health grew more precarious
from day to day, he was attacked by an illness from which it was
thought he could never recover. He was saved for the last time;
but this epoch was marked by an event so agonizing to his heart
that he immediately called it mortal. Indeed, he did not long
survive the rupture of his friendship with Madame Sand, which
took place at this date. Madame de Stael, who, in spite of her
generous and impassioned heart, her subtle and vivid intellect,
fell sometimes into the fault of making her sentences heavy
through a species of pedantry which robbed them of the grace of
"abandon,"--remarked on one of those occasions when the strength
of her feelings made her forget the solemnity of her Genevese
stiffness: "In affection, there are only beginnings!"

This exclamation was based upon the bitter experience of the
insufficiency of the human heart to accomplish the beautiful and
blissful dreams of the imagination. Ah! if some blessed examples
of human devotion did not sometimes occur to contradict the
melancholy words of Madame de Stael, which so many illustrious as
well as obscure facts seem to prove, our suspicions might lead us
to be guilty of much ingratitude and want of trust; we might be
led to doubt the sincerity of the hearts which surround us, and
see but the allegorical symbols of human affections in the
antique train of the beautiful Canephoroe, who carried the
fragile and perfumed flowers to adorn some hapless victim for the

Chopin spoke frequently and almost by preference of Madame Sand,
without bitterness or recrimination. Tears always filled his eyes
when he named her; but with a kind of bitter sweetness he gave
himself up to the memories of past days, alas, now. He stripped
of their manifold significance! In spite of the many subterfuges
employed by his friends to entice him from dwelling upon
remembrances which always brought dangerous excitement with them,
he loved to return to them; as if through the same feelings which
had once reanimated his life, he now wished to destroy it,
sedulously stifling its powers through the vapor of this subtle
poison. His last pleasure seemed to be the memory of the blasting
of his last hope; he treasured the bitter knowledge that under
this fatal spell his life was ebbing fast away. All attempts to
fix his attention upon other objects were made in vain, he
refused to be comforted and would constantly speak of the one
engrossing subject. Even if he had ceased to speak of it, would
he not always have thought of it? He seemed to inhale the poison
rapidly and eagerly, that he might thus shorten the time in which
he would be forced to breathe it!

Although the exceeding fragility of his physical constitution
might not have allowed him, under any circumstances, to have
lingered long on earth, yet at least he might have been spared
the bitter sufferings which clouded his last hours! With a tender
and ardent soul, though exacting through its fastidiousness and
excessive delicacy, he could not live unless surrounded by the
radiant phantoms he had himself evoked; he could not expel the
profound sorrow which his heart cherished as the sole remaining
fragment of the happy past. He was another great and illustrious
victim to the transitory attachments occurring between persons of
different character, who, experiencing a surprise full of delight
in their first sudden meeting, mistake it for a durable feeling,
and build hopes and illusions upon it which can never be
realized. It is always the nature the most deeply moved, the most
absolute in its hopes and attachments, for which all
transplantation is impossible, which is destroyed and mined in
the painful awakening from the absorbing dream! Terrible power
exercised over man by the most exquisite gifts which he
possesses! Like the coursers of the sun, when the hand of
Phaeton, in place of guiding their beneficent career, permits
them to wander at random, disordering the beautiful structure of
the celestial spheres, they bring devastation and flames in their
train! Chopin felt and often repeated that the sundering of this
long friendship, the rupture of this strong tie, broke all the
chords which bound him to life.

During this attack his life was despaired of for several days. M.
Gutman, his most distinguished pupil, and during the last years
of his life, his most intimate friend, lavished upon him every
proof of tender attachment. His cares, his attentions, were the
most agreeable to him. With the timidity natural to invalids, and
with the tender delicacy peculiar to himself, he once asked the
Princess Czartoryska, who visited him every day, often fearing
that on the morrow he would no longer be among the living: "if
Gutman was not very much fatigued? If she thought he would be
able to continue his care of him;" adding, "that his presence was
dearer to him than that of any other person." His convalescence
was very slow and painful, leaving him indeed but the semblance
of life. At this epoch he changed so much in appearance that he
could scarcely be recognized The next summer brought him that
deceptive decrease of suffering which it sometimes grants to
those who are dying. He refused to quit Paris, and thus deprived
himself of the pure air of the country, and the benefit of this
vivifying element.

The winter of 1847 to 1848 was filled with a painful and
continual succession of improvements and relapses.
Notwithstanding this, he resolved in the spring to accomplish his
old project of visiting London. When the revolution of February
broke out, he was still confined to bed, but with a melancholy
effort, he seemed to try to interest himself in the events of the
day, and spoke of them more than usual. M. Gutman continued his
most intimate and constant visitor. He accepted through
preference his cares until the close of his life.

Feeling better in the month of April, he thought of realizing his
contemplated journey, of visiting that country to which he had
intended to go when youth and life opened in bright perspective
before him. He set out for England, where his works had already
found an intelligent public, and were generally known and

[Footnote: The compositions of Chopin were, even at that time,
known and very much liked in England. The most distinguished
virtuosi frequently executed them. In a pamphlet published in
London by Messrs. Wessel and Stappletou, under the title of AN
ESSAY ON THE WORKS OF F.CHOPIN, we find some lines marked by just
criticism. The epigraph of this little pamphlet is ingeniously
chosen, and the two lines from Shelley could scarcely be better
applied than to Chopin:

        "He was a mighty poet--and
        A subtle-souled Psychologist."

The author of this pamphlet speaks with enthusiasm of the
"originative genius untrammeled by conventionalities, unfettered
by pedantry;...of the outpourings of an unworldly and tristful
soul--those musical floods of tears, and gushes of pure
joyfulness--those exquisite embodiments of fugitive thoughts--
those infinitesimal delicacies, which give so much value to the
lightest sketch of Chopin." The English author again says: "One
thing is certain, viz.: to play with proper feeling and correct
execution, the PRELUDES and STUDIES of Chopin, is to be neither
more nor less than a finished pianist, and moreover to comprehend
them thoroughly, to give a life and tongue to their infinite and
most eloquent subtleties of expression, involves the necessity of
being in no less a degree a poet than a pianist, a thinker than a
musician. Commonplace is instinctively avoided in all the works
of Chopin; a stale cadence or a trite progression, a humdrum
subject or a hackneyed sequence, a vulgar twist of the melody or
a worn-out passage, a meagre harmony or an unskillful
counterpoint, may in vain be looked for throughout the entire
range of his compositions; the prevailing characteristics of
which, are, a feeling as uncommon as beautiful, a treatment as
original as felicitous, a melody and a harmony as new, fresh,
vigorous, and striking, as they are utterly unexpected and out of
the common track. In taking up one of the works of Chopin, you
are entering, as it were, a fairyland, untrodden by human
footsteps, a path hitherto unfrequented but by the great composer
himself; and a faith, a devotion, a desire to appreciate and a
determination to understand are absolutely necessary, to do it
any thing like adequate justice.... Chopin in his POLONAISES and
in his MAZOURKAS has aimed at those characteristics, which
distinguish the national music of his country so markedly from,
that of all others, that quaint idiosyncrasy, that identical
wildness and fantasticality, that delicious mingling of the sad
and cheerful, which invariably and forcibly individualize the
music of those Northern nations, whose language delights in
combinations of consonants...."]

He left France in that mood of mind which the English call "low
spirits." The transitory interest which he had endeavored to take
in political changes, soon disappeared. He became more taciturn
than ever. If through absence of mind, a few words would escape
him. They were only exclamations of regret. His affection for the
limited number of persons whom he continued to see, was filled
with that heart-rending emotion which precedes eternal farewells!
Art alone always retained its absolute power over him. Music
absorbed him during the time, now constantly shortening, in which
he was able to occupy himself with it, as completely as during
the days when he was full of life and hope. Before he left Paris,
he gave a concert in the saloon of M. Pleyel, one of the friends
with whom his relations had been the most constant, the most
frequent, and the most affectionate; who is now rendering a
worthy homage to his memory, occupying himself with zeal and
activity in the execution of a monument for his tomb. At this
concert, his chosen and faithful audience heard him for the last

He was received in London with an eagerness which had some effect
in aiding him to shake off his sadness, to dissipate his mournful
depression. Perhaps he dreamed, by burying all his former habits
in oblivion, he could succeed in dissipating, his melancholy! He
neglected the prescriptions of his physicians, with all the
precautions which reminded him of his wretched health. He played
twice in public, and many times in private concerts. He mingled
much in society, sat up late at night, and exposed himself to
considerable fatigue, without permitting himself to be deterred
by any consideration for his health. He was presented to the
Queen by the Duchess of Sutherland, and the most distinguished
society sought the pleasure of his acquaintance. He went to
Edinburgh, where the climate was particularly injurious to him.
He was much debilitated upon his return from Scotland; his
physicians wished him to leave England immediately, but he
delayed for some time his departure. Who can read the feelings
which caused this delay!...He played again at a concert given for
the Poles. It was the last mark of love sent to his beloved
country--the last look--the last sigh--the last regret! He was
feted, applauded, and surrounded by his own people. He bade them
all adieu,--they did not know it was an eternal Farewell! What
thoughts must have filled his sad soul as he crossed the sea to
return to Paris! That Paris so different now for him from that
which he had found without seeking in 1831!

He was met upon his arrival by a surprise as painful as
unexpected. Dr. Molin, whose advice and intelligent prescriptions
had saved his life in the winter of 1847, to whom alone he
believed himself indebted for the prolongation of his life, was
dead. He felt his loss painfully, nay, it brought a profound
discouragement with it; at a time when the mind exercises so much
influence over the progress of the disease, he persuaded himself
that no one could replace the trusted physician, and he had no
confidence in any other. Dissatisfied with them all, without any
hope from their skill, he changed them constantly. A kind of
superstitious depression seized him. No tie stronger than life,
no more powerful as death, came now to struggle against this
bitter apathy! From the winter of 1848, Chopin had been in no
condition to labor continuously. From time to time he retouched
some scattered leaves, without succeeding in arranging his
thoughts in accordance with his designs. A respectful care of his
fame dictated to him the wish that these sketches should be
destroyed to prevent the possibility of their being mutilated,
disfigured, and transformed into posthumous works unworthy of his

He left no finished manuscripts, except a very short WALTZ, and a
last NOCTURNE, as parting memories. In the later period of his
life he thought of writing a method for the Piano, in which he
intended to give his ideas upon the theory and technicality of
his art, the results of his long and patient studies, his happy
innovations, and his intelligent experience. The task was a
difficult one, demanding redoubled application even from one who
labored as assiduously as Chopin. Perhaps he wished to avoid the
emotions of art, (affecting those who reproduce them in serenity
of soul so differently from those who repeat in them their own
desolation of heart,) by taking refuge in a region so barren. He
sought in this employment only an absorbing and uniform
occupation, he only asked from it what Manfred demanded in vain
from the powers of magic: "forgetfulness!" Forgetfulness--granted
neither by the gayety of amusement, nor the lethargy of torpor!
On the contrary, with venomous guile, they always compensate in
the renewed intensity of woe, for the time they may have
succeeded in benumbing it. In the daily labor which "charms the
storms of the soul," (DER SEELE STURM BESCHWORT,) he sought
without doubt forgetfulness, which occupation, by rendering the
memory torpid, may sometimes procure, though it cannot destroy
the sense of pain. At the close of that fine elegy which he names
"The Ideal," a poet, who was also the victim of an inconsolable
melancholy, appeals to labor as a consolation when a prey to
bitter regret; while expecting an early death, he invokes
occupation as the last resource against the incessant anguish of

     "And thou, so pleated, with her uniting,
     To charm the soul-storm into peace,
     Sweet toil, in toil itself delighting,
     That more it labored, less could cease,
     Though but by grains thou aidest the pile
     The vast eternity uprears,
     At least thou strikest from TIME the while
     Life's debt--the minutes--days--and years."

              Bulwer's translation of SCHILLER'S "Ideal."

          Beschoeftigung, die nie ermattet
          Die langsam schafft, doch nie zerstoert,
          Die zu dem Bau der Ewigkeiten
          Zwar Sandkorn nur, fuer Sandkorn reicht,
          Doch von der grossen Schuld der Zeiten
          Minute, Tage, Jahre streicht.

                                      Die Ideale--SHILLER.

The strength of Chopin was not sufficient for the execution of
his intention. The occupation was too abstract, too fatiguing. He
contemplated the form of his project, he spoke of it at different
times, but its execution had become impossible. He wrote but a
few pages of it, which were destroyed with the rest.

At last the disease augmented so visibly, that the fears of his
friends assumed the hue of despair. He scarcely ever left his
bed, and spoke but rarely. His sister, upon receiving this
intelligence, came from Warsaw to take her place at his pillow,
which she left no more. He witnessed the anguish, the
presentiments, the redoubled sadness around him, without showing
what impression they made upon him. He thought of death with
Christian calm and resignation, yet he did not cease to prepare
for the morrow. The fancy he had for changing his residence was
once more manifested, he took another lodging, disposed the
furnishing of it anew, and occupied himself in its most minute
details. As he had taken no measures to recall the orders he had
given for its arrangement, they were transporting his furniture
to the apartments he was destined never to inhabit, upon the very
day of his death!

Did he fear that death would not fulfil his plighted promise! Did
he dread, that after having touched him with his icy hand, he
would still suffer him to linger upon earth? Did he feel that
life would be almost unendurable with its fondest ties broken,
its closest links dissevered? There is a double influence often
felt by gifted temperaments when upon the eve of some event which
is to decide their fate. The eager heart, urged on by a desire to
unravel the mystic secrets of the unknown Future, contradicts the
colder, the more timid intellect, which fears to plunge into the
uncertain abyss of the coming fate! This want of harmony between
the simultaneous previsions of the mind and heart, often causes
the firmest spirits to make assertions which their actions seem
to contradict; yet actions and assertions both flow from the
differing sources of an equal conviction. Did Chopin suffer from
this inevitable dissimilarity between the prophetic whispers of
the heart, and the thronging doubts of the questioning mind?

From week to week, and soon from day to day, the cold shadow of
death gained upon him. His end was rapidly approaching; his
sufferings became more and more intense; his crises grew more
frequent, and at each accelerated occurrence, resembled more and
more a mortal agony. He retained his presence of mind, his vivid
will upon their intermission, until the last; neither losing the
precision of his ideas, nor the clear perception of his
intentions. The wishes which he expressed in his short moments of
respite, evinced the calm solemnity with which he contemplated
the approach of death. He desired to be buried by the side of
Bellini, with whom, during the time of Bellini's residence in
Paris, he had been intimately acquainted. The grave of Bellini is
in the cemetery of Pere LaChaise, next to that of Cherubini. The
desire of forming an acquaintance with this great master whom he
had been brought up to admire, was one of the motives which, when
he left Vienna in 1831 to go to London, induced him, without
foreseeing that his destiny would fix him there, to pass through
Paris. Chopin now sleeps between Bellini and Cherubini, men of
very dissimilar genius, and yet to both of whom he was in an
equal degree allied, as he attached as much value to the respect
he felt for the science of the one, as to the sympathy he
acknowledged for the creations of the other. Like the author of
NORMA, he was full of melodic feeling, yet he was ambitions of
attaining the harmonic depth of the learned old master; desiring
to unite, in a great and elevated style, the dreamy vagueness of
spontaneous emotion with the erudition of the most consummate

Continuing the reserve of his manners to the very last, he did
not request to see. any one for the last time; but he evinced the
most touching gratitude to all who approached him. The first days
of October left neither doubt nor hope. The fatal moment drew
near. The next day, the next hour, could no longer be relied
upon. M. Gutman and his sister were in constant attendance upon
him, never for a single moment leaving him. The Countess Delphine
Potocka, who was then absent from Paris, returned as soon as she
was informed of his imminent danger. None of those who approached
the dying artist, could tear themselves from the spectacle of
this great and gifted soul in its hours of mortal anguish.

However violent or frivolous the passions may be which agitate
our hearts, whatever strength or indifference may be displayed in
meeting unforeseen or sudden accidents, which would seem
necessarily overwhelming in their effects, it is impossible to
escape the impression made by the imposing majesty of a lingering
and beautiful death, which touches, softens, fascinates and
elevates even the souls the least prepared for such holy and
sublime emotions. The lingering and gradual departure of one
among us for those unknown shores, the mysterious solemnity of
his secret dreams, his commemoration of past facts and passing
ideas when still breathing upon the narrow strait which separates
time from eternity, affect us more deeply than any thing else in
this world. Sudden catastrophes, the dreadful alternations forced
upon the shuddering fragile ship, tossed like a toy by the wild
breath of the tempest; the blood of the battle-field, with the
gloomy smoke of artillery; the horrible charnel-house into which
our own habitation is converted by a contagious plague;
conflagrations which wrap whole cities in their glittering
flames; fathomless abysses which open at our feet;--remove us
less sensibly from all the fleeting attachments "which pass,
which can be broken, which cease," than the prolonged view of a
soul conscious of its own position, silently contemplating the
multiform aspects of time and the mute door of eternity! The
courage, the resignation, the elevation, the emotion, which
reconcile it with that inevitable dissolution so repugnant to all
our instincts, certainly impress the bystanders more profoundly
than the most frightful catastrophes, which, in the confusion
they create, rob the scene of its still anguish, its solemn

The parlor adjoining the chamber of Chopin was constantly
occupied by some of his friends, who, one by one, in turn,
approached him to receive a sign of recognition, a look of
affection, when he was no longer able to address them in words.
On Sunday, the 15th of October, his attacks were more violent and
more frequent--lasting for several hours in succession. He
endured them with patience and great strength of mind. The
Countess Delphine Potocka, who was present, was much distressed;
her tears were flowing fast when he observed her standing at the
foot of his bed, tall, slight, draped in white, resembling the
beautiful angels created by the imagination of the most devout
among the painters. Without doubt, he supposed her to be a
celestial apparition; and when the crisis left him a moment in
repose, he requested her to sing; they deemed him at first seized
with delirium, but he eagerly repeated his request. Who could
have ventured--to oppose his wish? The piano was rolled from his
parlor to the door of his chamber, while, with sobs in her voice,
and tears streaming down her cheeks, his gifted countrywoman
sang. Certainly, this delightful voice had never before attained
an expression so full of profound pathos. He seemed to suffer
less as he listened. She sang that famous Canticle to the Virgin,
which, it is said, once saved the life of Stradella. "How
beautiful it is!" he exclaimed. "My God, how very beautiful!
Again--again!" Though overwhelmed with emotion, the Countess had
the noble courage to comply with the last wish of a friend, a
compatriot; she again took a seat at the piano, and sung a hymn
from Marcello. Chopin again feeling worse, everybody was seized
with fright--by a spontaneous impulse all who were present threw
themselves upon their knees--no one ventured to speak; the sacred
silence was only broken by the voice of the Countess, floating,
like a melody from heaven, above the sighs and sobs which formed
its heavy and mournful earth-accompaniment. It was the haunted
hour of twilight; a dying light lent its mysterious shadows to
this sad scene--the sister of Chopin prostrated near his bed,
wept and prayed--and never quitted this attitude of supplication
while the life of the brother she had so cherished lasted.

His condition altered for the worse during the night, but he felt
more tranquil upon Monday morning, and as if he had known in
advance the appointed and propitious moment, he asked to receive
immediately the last sacraments. In the absence of the Abbe * *
*, with whom he had been very intimate since their common
expatriation, he requested that the Abbe Jelowicki, one of the
most distinguished men of the Polish emigration, should be sent
for. When the holy Viaticum was administered to him, he received
it, surrounded by those who loved him, with great devotion. He
called his friends a short time afterwards, one by one, to his
bedside, to give each of them his last earnest blessing; calling
down the grace of God fervently upon themselves, their
affections, and their hopes,--every knee bent--every head bowed--
all eyes were heavy with tears--every heart was sad and
oppressed--every soul elevated.

Attacks more and more painful, returned and continued during the
day; from Monday night until Tuesday, he did not utter a single
word. He did not seem able to distinguish the persons who were
around him. About eleven o'clock on Tuesday evening, he appeared
to revive a little. The Abbe Jelowicki had never left him. Hardly
had he recovered the power of speech, than he requested him to
recite with him the prayers and litanies for the dying. He was
able to accompany the Abbe in an audible and intelligible voice.
From this moment until his death, he held his head constantly
supported upon the shoulder of M. Gutman, who, during the whole
course of this sickness, had devoted his days and nights to him.

A convulsive sleep lasted until the 17th of October, 1849. The
final agony commenced about two o'clock; a cold sweat ran
profusely from his brow; after a short drowsiness, he asked, in a
voice scarcely audible: "Who is near me?" Being answered, he bent
his head to kiss the hand of M. Gutman, who still supported it--
while giving this last tender proof of love and gratitude, the
soul of the artist left its fragile clay. He died as he had
lived--in loving.

When the doors of the parlor were opened, his friends threw
themselves around the loved corpse, not able to suppress the gush
of tears.

His love for flowers being well known, they were brought in such
quantities the next day, that the bed in which they had placed
them, and indeed the whole room, almost disappeared, hidden by
their varied and brilliant hues. He seemed to repose in a garden
of roses. His face regained its early beauty, its purity of
expression, its long unwonted serenity. Calmly--with his youthful
loveliness, so long dimmed by bitter suffering, restored by
death, he slept among the flowers he loved, the last long and
dreamless sleep!

M. Clesinger reproduced the delicate traits, to which death had
rendered their early beauty, in a sketch which he immediately
modeled, and which he afterwards executed in marble for his tomb.

The respectful admiration which Chopin felt for the genius of
Mozart, had induced him to request that his Requiem should be
performed at his obsequies; this wish was complied with. The
funeral ceremonies took place in the Madeleine Church, the 30th
of October, 1849. They had been delayed until this date, in order
that the execution of this great work should be worthy of the
master and his disciple. The principal artists in Paris were
anxious to take part in it. The FUNERAL MARCH of Chopin, arranged
for the instruments for this occasion by M. Reber, was introduced
at the Introit. At the Offertory, M. Lefebure Vely executed his
admirable PRELUDES in SI and MI MINOR upon the organ. The solos
of the REQUIEM were claimed by Madame Viardot and Madame
Castellan. Lablache, who had sung the TUBA MIRUM of this REQUIEM
at the burial of Beethoven in 1827, again sung it upon this
occasion. M. Meyerbeer, with Prince Adam Czartoryski, led the
train of mourners. The pall was borne by M. Delacroix, M.
Franchomme, M. Gutman, and Prince Alexander Czartorvski.--However
insufficient these pages may be to speak of Chopin as we would
have desired, we hope that the attraction which so justly
surrounds his name, will compensate for much that may be wanting
in them. If to these lines, consecrated to the commemoration of
his works and to all that he held dear, which the sincere esteem,
enthusiastic regard, and intense sorrow for his loss, can alone
gift with persuasive and sympathetic power, it were necessary to
add some of the thoughts awakened in every man when death robs
him of the loved contemporaries of his youth, thus breaking the
first ties linked by the confiding and deluded heart with so much
the greater pain if they were strong enough to survive that
bright period of young life, we would say that in the same--year
we have lost the two dearest friends we have known on earth. One
of them perished in the wild course of civil war. Unfortunate and
valiant hero! He fell with his burning courage unsubdued, his
intrepid calmness undisturbed, his chivalric temerity unabated,
through the endurance of the horrible tortures of a fearful
death. He was a Prince of rare intelligence, of great activity,
of eminent faculties, through whose veins the young blood
circulated with the glittering ardor of a subtle gas. By his own
indefatigable energy he had just succeeded in removing the
difficulties which obstructed his path, in creating an arena in
which his faculties might hare displayed themselves with as much
success in debates and the management of civil affairs, as they
had already done in brilliant feats in arms. The other, Chopin,
died slowly, consuming himself in the flames of his own genius.
His life, unconnected with public events, was like some fact
which has never been incorporated in a material body. The traces
of his existence are only to be found in the works which he has
left. He ended his days upon a foreign soil, which he never
considered as his country, remaining faithful in the devotion of
his affections to the eternal widowhood of his own. He was a Poet
of a mournful soul, full of reserve and complicated mystery, and
familiar with the stern face of sorrow.

The immediate interest which we felt in the movements of the
parties to which the life of Prince Felix Lichnowsky was bound,
was broken by his death: the death of Chopin has robbed us of all
the consolations of an intelligent and comprehensive friendship.
The affectionate sympathy with our feelings, with our manner of
understanding art, of which this exclusive artist has given us so
many proofs, would have softened the disappointment and weariness
which yet await us, and have strengthened is in our earliest
tendencies, confirmed us in our first essays.

Since it has fallen to our lot to survive them, we wish at least
to express the sincere regret we feel for their loss. We deem
ourselves bound to offer the homage of our deep and respectful
sorrow upon the grave of the remarkable musician who has just
passed from among us. Music is at present receiving such great
and general development, that it reminds us of that which took
place in painting in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Even
the artists who limited the productions of their genius to the
margins of parchments, painted their miniatures with an
inspiration so happy, that having broken through the Byzantine
stiffness, they left the most exquisite types, which the
Francias, the Peruginos, and the Raphaels to come were to
transport to their frescos, and introduce upon their canvas.


There have been people among whom, in order to preserve the
memory of their great men or the signal events of their history,
it was the custom to form pyramids composed of the stones which
each passer-by was expected to bring to the pile, which gradually
increased to an unlooked-for height from the anonymous
contributions of all. Monuments are still in our days erected by
an analogous proceeding, but in place of building only a rude and
unformed hillock, in consequence of a fortunate combination the
contribution of all concurs in the creation of some work of art,
which is not only destined to perpetuate the mute remembrance
which they wish to honor, but which may have the power to awaken
in future ages the feelings which gave birth to such creation,
the emotions of the contemporaries which called it into being. The
subscriptions which are opened to raise statues and noble
memorials to those who have rendered their epoch or country
illustrious, originate in this design. Immediately after the
death of Chopin, M. Camille Pleyel conceived a project of this
kind. He commenced a subscription, (which conformably to the
general expectation rapidly amounted to a considerable sum,) to
have the monument modeled by M. Clesinger, executed in marble and
placed in the Pere La-Chaise. In thinking over our long
friendship with Chopin; on the exceptional admiration which we
have always felt for him ever since his appearance in the musical
world; remembering that, artist like himself, we have been the
frequent interpreter of his inspirations, an interpreter, we may
safely venture to say, loved and chosen by himself; that we have
more frequently than others received from his own lips the spirit
of his style; that we were in some degree identified with his
creations in art, and with the feelings which he confided to it,
through that long and constant assimilation which obtains between
a writer and his translator;--we have fondly thought that these
connective circumstances imposed upon us a higher and nearer duty
than that of merely adding an unformed and anonymous stone to the
growing pyramid of homage which his contemporaries are elevating
to him. We believed that the claims of a tender friendship for
our illustrious colleague, exacted from us a more particular
expression of our profound regret, of our high admiration. It
appeared to us that we would not be true to ourselves, did we not
court the honor of inscribing our name, our deep affliction, upon
his sepulchral stone! This should be granted to those who never
hope to fill the void in their hearts left by an irreparable

End of the Project Gutenberg Etext of Life of Chopin, by Franz Liszt